by Susan Jardine
OK it is Sunday 4 March and it is high noon. What will you be doing? Sorting out the Sunday dinner, sleeping off the previous night’s alcohol intake, or will you be slumped on the sofa reading the paper?
How about watching the Tyne and Wear bunfight!
Yes it is that time of the season where in the words of the song Two Tribes go to war as Newcastle and Sunderland lock horns in the latest instalment of the Tyne-Wear derby.
It is the match that everyone who is of a Newcastle and Sunderland persuasion looks for first when the fixtures for the season are released. That merely though gives you an idea as to just how important the match is viewed by fans of the Mags or the Mackems as each others’ supporters constantly refer to the rival club’s fans.
So how did such a rivalry develop between the two North East cities?
The answer lies in a good old fashioned history lesson that we all learn at school. Take your minds back to the 17th Century when the country was engaged in the English civil war. It was Charles 1 v Oliver Cromwell. The Cavaliers v The Roundheads. Newcastle, which is the provincial capital of the North East, backed the King. Sunderland, which in those days was a town, supported Cromwell.
Of course we all know how the Civil War was resolved, but I am sure there will be no beheading following the outcome of the latest contretemps in the North East on Sunday.
Ask any fan about how they feel about the Tyne –Wear derby and they will tell you that they approach it with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. The rivalry between the two clubs is well documented but is now usually in the form of friendly banter between the fans…mostly. There will sadly always be those who take things too far and I have witnessed such scenes to my horror.
Sunderland fans will no doubt shudder at the memory of the Halloween Horror Show two years ago
I would like to share with you some of my memories of these matches. Of course everyone who reads my work on here will surely have guessed by now that I am a fan of the Mags, while being attached to Sunderland as a football commentator. And as a commentator with Radio Sunderland it is the match that we all want to do. So much so that when the fixtures were released earlier this season I was straight on to my boss asking if I could have the derby as it is known. My request was duly granted, and as luck would have it I was paired with my regular co-hort who is a lifelong Sunderland fan. All of which makes for some friendly badinage between us. Anyone who has listened to us will no doubt have guessed that we get on very well. But just imagine my face when Ryan Taylor curled in the free kick that sealed a 1-0 victory for Newcastle earlier this season at Stadium of Light, Mark’s face hit the floor when referee Howard Webb blew for full time that signified a home defeat for his team at the hands of his colleague’s team
I did let him off very lightly though. I am not one to rub it in. The atmosphere in the press room afterwards was pretty eerie, very quiet and trying not to smile is a tough one. Believe me it really is.
The one that all Sunderland fans will no doubt shudder at the memory of is the Halloween Horror Show two years ago when Sunderland made the trip up the A19 to St James’ to face the Toon Army on their turf. Any Newcastle fan that day would not have predicted the events that were to happen as Newcastle put five past their local rivals, with Darren Bent grabbing a late consolation for Steve Bruce’s side.
Ruud Gullit completely misunderstood the importance of the Tyne Wear derby.
Some other random memories that I have: Scott Sellars hammering in a free kick at a rain soaked St James’ in 1993 that all but sealed Newcastle’s promotion to the premiership under Kevin Keegan and condemned Sunderland to a relegation dogfight that they were to survive. And of course, one of the most infamous was when Ruud Gullit completely misunderstood the importance of the Tyne Wear derby, leaving Alan Shearer and Rob Lee kicking their heels on the bench as Sunderland beat Newcastle in 1999- and just about signed his own P45 in the process. But of course that did pave the way for the entrance of the legend that was Sir Bobby Robson. So for the Mags it was a blessing in disguise
What will happen on Sunday? Well Sunderland are still smarting from a 4-0 hammering at West Brom, and if Peter Odomwingie can put two past Simon Mignolet, despite a much improved Sunderland back four, imagine what the pace of Demba Ba and Papisse Cisse can do. Throw in the scourge of Sunderland in Shola Ameobi and the Wearsiders will surely know that they are in for a testing afternoon. On the other hand James McClean’s pace will surely test Davide Santon while there looks to be a ferocious battle in midfield as the Newcastle midfield of Ryan Taylor, Cheik Tiote, Yohan Cabaye and Jonas Guttierez face off against Sebastian Larsson, Lee Cattermole, Craig Gardner and McClean. Two other intriguing battles look to be Fraizer Campbell v Fabricio Collocini while Keiron Richardson will lock horns with Spiderman.
And the referee, who has the honour of officiating this match, is Mike Dean from the Wirral. It is to be hoped it is a great match between two very proud clubs with tremendous support from their respective fans. What do I think the result will be? I am edging towards a draw, but if a team is to claim all three points I’m thinking it will be Newcastle.
Fasten your seatbelts, it is probably going to be a very bumpy ride.