The rivalry between these two North East England communities can be traced back to the English civil war – 350 years ago. The Magpies were the dodgy, foppish Royalists, whilst the Makems were the dependable and ultimately victorious Parliamentarians who went on to indelibly change English history.
A Fixture With Few Home Comforts
However, Sunderland’s recent history against Newcastle United has been appalling, with a paltry two home victories during the last 32 years and only one win in the last 15 meetings. This must have resulted in a lot of sick days being taken by Mackems after derby games to avoid “crowing magpies”. The Black Cats lowest point against the Mags was the awful 1-4 home rout in 2006, despite Sunderland initially taking the lead. It was the final straw in a disgraceful record low 15-point season. Thankfully, the woefully inept Derby County snatched this record from Sunderland two years later, despite Newcastle gifting the Rams 4 points that season in a vain attempt to prolong the Black Cats shame.
One of the most notable derby clashes occurred during the promotion play off game in 1990. The score may have been 0-0 at Roker Park with Sunderland missing a last-minute penalty, but it was made memorable by Paul Hardyman trying to kick Newcastle goalkeeper, John Burridge, head into the stand and being sent off. The icing on the cake was when Sunderland won 0-2 at St James Park, made all the more amusing when the Toon Army invaded the pitch and tried unsuccessfully to get the game abandoned.
Fan-ning the Flames of Passion
The antipathy between both sets of fans came to a head in 2008 with the national press taking great delight in labelling Sunderland’s ground “the Stadium of Spite” following the Black Cats last home victory over Newcastle – ironically in October (an omen perhaps!). A negative result can also end managerial careers, with Ruud Gullit leaving Newcastle following their home defeat in 1999, and Steve Bruce never recovered from Sunderland’s 0-1 reverse last season. Mackems have recently taken great delight from the announcement that the ‘pay-day lender’ Wonga are to be Newcastle United new shirt sponsors for the 2013/14 season. According to the The Mail on Sunday it’s an arrangement that brings no ‘credit’ to the club with its 4,212 per cent APR loan deals. This is in stark contrast with the charitable status of Sunderland’s ‘Invest in Africa’ deal.
While Djibril Cisse had a significant impact in 2008/9, scoring for Sunderland in both derby games, Tyneside will be hoping that their very own Cisse (Papiss) can be a similar goal-scoring hit. The Premier League top scorer, Demba Ba (6 goals) will also be a key threat. Unfortunately for the Geordie striking duo, following on from last week’s fans riot during the Senegal v Ivory Coast international, any hope for a quiet afternoon at the Stadium of Light may be in vain. Cheick Tiote in particular will be singled out for special attention given his involvement in Stephane Sessegnon sending off last season.
At least Sunderland defender, Danny Rose, can expect a warm welcome after his midweek red card nightmare following disgraceful racist abuse from Serbian fans when representing England U21. It will be interesting to see if the Wearsiders decide to go on the offensive from the first whistle with ex-Magpie Louis Saha supporting Steven Fletcher up front in a 4-4-2 formation to pacify what will be a raucous and demanding crowd. Martin O’Neil has started to come under criticism in some quarters for his cautious approach and the fans patience will be at a premium in such a charged atmosphere.
My head tells me it will be a draw, but my heart hopes for a Sunderland victory. So much so that I’m tempted to promise to bare my bum in the Bridges Shopping Centre if the Black Cats win, but why spoil a good thing.
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