The importance of the Tyne-Wear derby alone is pretty bloody obvious for both Newcastle and Sunderland fans.
At Newcastle, there was some discontent to say the least about Steve McClaren and now renewed optimism and with Rafa Benitez’s appointment at St James’ Park. It seems like Newcastle are trying our previous tactic of sacking a head-coach/manager two games before the derby. Hopefully it doesn’t work - I would love nothing more than to beat them and help send them down to the Championship and help us to stay in the Premier League.
I actually hate the derby. We may have won the last six but the build-up to the game and, more often than not, the game itself is horrible for me to endure. It’s because of that fear of losing. I enjoy the aftermath of the game if we’ve won but more often than not I HATE the occasion.
I am slightly excited for the occasion this time but the nerves are there because of how important the game is in the battle to stay in the Premier League. This derby is, quite simply, a relegation six-pointer.
I feel worse when Sunderland are at home because I downright despise the prospect of losing at home to your bitter rivals. Thankfully we’ve already avoided that at least for one more season even though to this day I still have no idea how on earth we won that game.
With this being Benitez’s first home game, I’d be really worried and Sunderland better be prepared for the ‘new manager’ effect. It’s what’s got us four of the last six derby wins to an extent.
With a new manager in tow you'd expect that they’ll be keen to use home advantage wherever they can. That stadium will be bouncing ahead of kick-off, and rightly so, so it’s up to us to be professional.
Pressure more on Newcastle?
On the other hand though, the pressure will be on Newcastle more than Sunderland for a number of reasons.
Firstly – their position in the table and if they (hopefully) lose to Sunderland it could go some way to keeping their rivals up while relegating them to the Championship. But they have Norwich away after this which would then become an even bigger game for Newcastle.
Secondly – the previous six derby results will be on the player's minds to an extent and the fans will obviously be desperate to beat Sunderland.
Thirdly – unless they start improving away from home, Newcastle’s home form will be vital if they are stay up. At home they have Sunderland, Swansea, Crystal Palace, Tottenham and Manchester City still to play. Assuming they don’t get anything against Spurs or City, this game is massive for them.
If their awful away form continues it puts huge pressure on their home games. For Newcastle, this game is a must-win. While Sunderland could really do with three points themselves, I think avoiding defeat is just as important. A draw wouldn’t be ideal for either side but it’d be a better result for Sunderland than for Newcastle.
Can Sunderland capitalise?
If we show the right application then we can get a win. Keep them quiet for the first twenty or thirty minutes and if we manage to keep the door firmly shut then we have every chance of winning. We haven’t kept a clean sheet since the end of November. Hint hint.
As the away team, it’s our job to make the home crowd edgy and anxious and should the game be level, whether at nil-nil or two-two, the more it suits Sunderland as the game goes on.
Despite Newcastle’s home fans rightly turning on the team in their home defeat to Bournemouth, it must be remembered that on Derby Day the atmosphere will be different especially with this being Benitez’s first home game. I hope Sam Allardyce will make his players aware of this.
Biggest Tyne-Wear derby in recent history?
This Tyne-Wear derby is arguably the biggest one in years because of the situation both clubs are in at the bottom of the Premier League. Newcastle will feel this pressure more with them being at home because the onus is on them to attack.
Defeat for either side could be a disaster. But if Sunderland did lose this game, we still have other games to make up points such as West Brom, Everton and Leicester at home and Norwich, Stoke and Watford away.
For Newcastle, if they lost this game (fingers crossed) then they would have to beat Swansea and Palace while picking up points away from home. However, I would back them to beat Norwich and possibly Aston Villa.
I’d give anything to be on twenty-eight points, or at least twenty-six by full-time on Sunday. Then if Newcastle, Norwich and Aston Villa could go down at the end of this season I’d be over the moon - I would be lying if I said seven in a row wouldn’t be welcome. Let’s hope we can do it!