MEMORIES of Serbia came flooding back to Danny Rose this week. Had he not just returned from injury last weekend, the Sunderland full-back would have been on England Under-21s duty for the first time since October.
October 16 was the night when Rose – and other black players – was subjected to racist abuse before, during and after England sealed a place in this summer’s European Championships with a crucial win in the Krusevac qualifier.
Rose will miss the opening game of the Under-21s tournament because of the onematch ban he was issued with for the red card he received after the final whistle. He kicked the ball away in frustration.
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The suspension means the fall-out of the racism row will rumble on for him until the summer, even though he has successfully emerged from the nightmare a stronger person.
As his England team-mates in Stuart Pearce’s squad prepared for the 4-0 friendly win over Sweden at Walsall on Tuesday, Rose had the time at Sunderland’s Academy of Light to revisit the events in Serbia.
“I am over that now. A million per cent,” said Rose. “It wasn’t a nice experience then, but I am over it. It is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.”
UEFA ordered Serbia to play their next Under-21s game behind closed doors and banned six players – including England’s Tom Ince and Steven Caulker – and two Serbian coaches for the ugly scenes in October.
Rose, hoping to make his first start for Sunderland since early January when Arsenal travel to Wearside tomorrow, was confronted by Serbian players which resulted in a brawl involving staff from both sides. It was a night he will never forget.
He said: “There are some things I wish I had done differently but it is one of those things. People say you should be prepared for them nipping you and trying to aggravate you. I wasn’t mentally prepared for the racial side of it.
“It was a shock because it started in the warm up. My mind wasn’t really on the game from the warm up. I am just thankful the whole team got home in one piece.
“It was frightening. You didn’t know how the police over there would react to us.
Thankfully, we got home in one piece.”
Pearce rang Rose before the latest Under-21s squad was announced to inform him that he was not going to be chosen for two reasons: his injury and a chance to see Southampton’s Luke Shaw in action.
Ironically, it was around the time of the Serbia trip when the young defender started to show his true value for Sunderland.
He remembers that, in the game immediately before the Serbia trip, realising he had to attack more to succeed in the Premier League.
“In the first few games I was playing a bit safe. In October we played Manchester City away and the manager [Martin O’Neill] brought me off after 60 minutes. I wasn’t happy,” said Rose.
“When we came back in the week he showed me some video clips of what he wants me to do better. Since then I have not looked back. I thank him for that. I have been positive ever since.
“I want to get back to that as soon as possible. I would say that City game is where my mindset probably changed. I was fairly new to the team before then.
“In the first two minutes of the next game I gave the ball away and Newcastle went on and scored. Ever since then I have enjoyed it. It’s all down to Martin O’Neill.”
He is yet to score for Sunderland, while the only goal to his name was against Arsenal.
It was memorable too, as Tottenham went on to beat their north London rivals following his tenth minute opener in April 2010.
“Ever since I scored that goal the Tottenham fans have been great with me,” said Rose, who has become a firm fans favourite at Sunderland during his season-long loan.
“I am not thinking about this Saturday’s game as a Tottenham player playing against Arsenal, I just hope I am in the team for the weekend.
It’s a big game and we lost last week at Reading.
“We went into the changing room afterwards and wanted to look at who has won of the teams below us.
We are the best out of the teams at the bottom half of the table but we are not safe.
It’s just another big game for me.”