Make Your Case: The Derby - Love It Or Hate It?

Stu Forster

This week's Make Your Case sees Chris Weatherspoon and Andy Tomlinson go back and forth over the merits, and lack thereof, of the Wear-Tyne derby.

Chris Weatherspoon: Love Them

It's a tricky one, this. Tricky because, really, I approach derby day much like a man approaches a job interview. Sweaty palms, trembling knees and the unerring nervousness in the pit of one's stomach that makes you feel like your bowels make take leave of you at any moment without prior warning.

Yet, in a sense, these very same feelings mean that you simply can't not love the derby. It envelopes the region for a fortnight, a week either side of that brief ninety minutes in the middle, where one side (usually not us) will claim bragging rights while the other (usually us) wallows in self-pity and wonders why the hell we bother.

Not really a convincing argument, is it? But that's just it, what makes this game so special, so lovable, is quite simple: hope. We are rubbish, we know we are. But for two games a season we can persuade ourselves that, you know what, this is going to be it. This will be the time we tonk those smug sods from up the road.

It happened last time and we went wild. They never saw it coming, and it was beautiful. It could happen again. I'll spend the rest of this week envisaging ways in which it could. It might never come to pass - in fact, it more than bloody likely won't - but that hope keeps us all going and this particular fixture comes laden with more than most.

This game doesn't mean more than most in terms of points. If we win on Sunday, the likelihood is that we'll still struggle to get to the end of the season with enough victories to keep us afloat. What this game does offer, though, is a chance for some pride. Discussions about the derby usually get lost in arguments where the word 'obsession' is bandied about all too readily, and for some people there does appear to be a rather worrying interest in rival fortunes over their own side's.

For the most part, though, the truth is that they need us and we need them. This is the game that stimulates more conversation than most, has best friends falling out for two weekends of the year and offers at least some scope for unbridled joy once the full-time whistle blows. It's nervy, messy and usually an enormous let-down. I wouldn't have it any other way (well, apart from the last bit, it'd be a lot nicer if we beat them every time).

Andy Tomlinson: Hate Them

This really is a tricky one, when the result goes well, it doesn't matter how either side is doing in the league, the winning team get bragging rights for around six months and all is well in the world. That, though, is a problem.

With both sides usually alternating between a relegation battle and mid-table mediocrity and cup runs seemingly being a thing of the past, the lack of actual success leaves bragging rights as the only real cause for celebration and can make or break a season.

Both sides have had notable Premier League wins recently, with our 3-0 win at the then champions Chelsea and Newcastle's 3-0 home win against the then champions Manchester United being two examples but, as notable as those results were outside the North East, to Sunderland and Newcastle fans the most memorable results for either side was our 3-0 win in the most recent derby game and their 5-1 win on Halloween 2010.

As much as we'll always remember the feeling of joy the 3-0 win gave us, as well as the memories of Paolo's dirty knees and the 'Toon Army' declaring war on all equine mammals, and as much as the 5-1 defeat hurt, I don't want this fixture to be the be-all and end-all of our season forever.

It's been over 40 years since we last tasted real success. In my lifetime we've appeared in two major finals and lost them both, as well as losing two play-off finals, yet the only victories that we've been able to dine out on is in games against Newcastle. Even those victories have been relatively rare, yet we still place the utmost importance on these two games.

How much damage did the 5-1 defeat do to Steve Bruce's reign at Sunderland, similarly the 3-0 win to Alan Pardew at Newcastle, with both managers under huge pressure after those results? Yet both managers regularly put out weakened teams in cup games, in front of half empty stadiums, with their respective teams going out without a fight in the only competitions we have a realistic chance of winning but did so with barely a word raised in complaint.

This game should be the icing on the cake but instead it's the whole cake, icing and all, with Premier League survival usually being the cherry on top. Our last derby win was glorious but we should have been asking questions about where those players had been the rest of the abject season and, Everton apart, where have they been since?

The derby can not only ruin or make a weekend, it can ruin or make an entire season and if the result is notable enough it's effects can last for years (as 3-0 is likely to and as the laughable '5under1and' insult has) but we simply don't demand the same effort or victory from the team in any other game like we do in the derby, nor do we put as much energy into the team as we do the week leading up to any other game.

For two games/days/weekends/weeks per season, we all pull together behind the team, we give everything, expect every ounce of energy from the team, almost every thought during the week leading up to the game is dedicated to the derby, we turn up in numbers and when we do there is nowhere else in the country with the same passion or a set of fans who will support their team more than we will

It's easy to moan when things aren't going your way or when certain right backs are playing left back but, despite our dire form this season, Sunday will be electric. Should we win the noise and atmosphere will be unbelievable, unrivalled in England in fact, maybe if that was the same for every game, maybe if we placed just as much emphasis on midweek cup ties with Southampton, we would finally have more than just a possible league win against our nearest and dearest to cheer.

That's why I hate the derby, it shows us up for how truly great we can be but also how often we fail to reach the high standards set during the derby game and the build up to it.

Do you love the derby or does it turn you into a frothing, enraged psychopath who just wants the bloody thing over and done with? Make your vote heard in the poll below.

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