A Different Opinion – Is Regional Pride More Important Than Points?

Each week, A Different League takes an emerging issue from the Premier League and gathers the viewpoint of some of our expert writers. This week:

Following Newcastle’s 5-1 defeat of local rivals Sunderland, is regional pride as important as the three points for the club as a whole?

Frank McCann: “This is a tricky one. In some ways yes, but in other ways it varies from fixture to fixture.

A derby match is supposed to be about claiming those precious bragging rights over your nearest rivals.

Take for example, Manchester United’s rivalry with Liverpool. In recent years, Chelsea have been as dominant as United, and have overtaken Liverpool as one of England’s biggest clubs. However, when it comes down to it, United-Liverpool is always going to be a bigger game. This is simply down to history. Chelsea doesn’t have the years of intense hatred that those two sides do.

If United and Liverpool were 13th and 14th in the Premier League, their fixture would still get the same treatment as if it were a top 2 clash.

With that said, I do believe some derby matches mean more than others.

The scenes at St.Jame’s park this past Sunday showed you exactly what a derby match was supposed to be like. We saw two teams that are currently at a similar level of quality. Winning those games are the most crucial and really make the side feel that they are better than their rivals. The same applies for Aston Villa’s rivalry with Birmingham and Liverpool’s rivalry with Everton. Arsenal and Spurs can be mentioned too, but when you compare them to West Ham and Millwall, it seems a bit tame!

The Manchester derby is a bit different, because I feel it’s a rivalry that has been manufactured following the Eastland side’s newfound wealth. In years past it was always about City having to raise their game when playing United, but with the money now putting them on the same level, it has possibly become the biggest derby in England.

I’m expecting the United-City rivalry to get increasingly intense over the coming years. You just have to look at last season’s games to see that.”

James McLean: “In short, for Newcastle and Sunderland regional pride is not as important as the points – it is more so! Obviously the three points are vital in relation to finishing positions and hence financial rewards (assuming Premier League survival of course), but being from the North-East myself I can honestly say that the fans are the lifeblood of both the Geordies and the Mackems, eating sleeping and breathing their club – regional pride could easily have bred a run of good form for either side.

Newcastle fans will unquestionably have been euphoric about the result, and this will have given them renewed enthusiasm that they may yet be the Premier League’s success story this season. The vigorous passion and energy around St. James’ Park this week must be ever more noticeable, if not utterly tangible. Happy fans can make the difference between a team giving up or battling on to grind out a result – and that is what I can see happening for the Geordies now.

Sunderland’s faithful were devastated by the result – believe me, I know – and the disappointment could manifest itself in one of two ways for the Mackems now. Either it will breed a festering sense of despondency and signal a poor run of form, or it might just get the players itching to set the record straight and give the fans something to cheer as soon as possible. The scars from this defeat won’t heal immediately – almost certainly not before the return fixture in January at the absolute earliest – and Steve Bruce’s men need to be more resolute next time round on the banks of the river Wear.

Teams have 38 chances to pick up the three points each year – but only two to claim some bragging rights, and on this occasion Newcastle grasped those rights with both hands. Speaking as a Sunderland fan, I can honestly say the three points would have been nice, but the pride would have been simply beautiful. Newcastle took it all on the day – points, pride, glory – and they won’t let their neighbours forget it in a hurry.”

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