The intensely exciting Tyne-Wear derby is knocking on the door with the Sunderland fans upbeat about their team’s chances before the eagerly awaited clash. Emotions galore on the pitch as well as in the stands during the Derby with the passionate fans occasionally getting their emotions bursting out – the most recent illustration is from last season’s same fixture when a fan tried to celebrate Asamoah Gyan’s late equalizer on the pitch and eventually became one of 24 people arrested that day after colliding with Newcastle ’keeper Steve Harper.
Hosting their eternal enemies first up is demanding but the Black Cats might be feeling that it’s the best time to meet the Magpies. The team appears fit and raring to go after gathering a creditable draw from the Liverpool clash and a win against Alan Pardew’s men might be the stepping stone for Steve Bruce’s side to bigger things. Sunderland looked in better physical shape at the later stages of that match when the midfield out-passed their illustrious counterparts, that included their own kid Jordan Henderson, while their opponents this weekend are also coming off the back of a draw against Arsenal but a disastrous pre-season and loss of key players yet to be replaced presents them in a somber picture.
Having said that, the Derby is a different proposition all together where heroes rise amongst the mediocre and even a solitary moment of inspiration ensures eternal place in fans’ hearts. Thomas Sorensen became an icon at the Stadium of Light after the away victory of 2000/01 season in which the Danish ’keeper saved a late penalty from the immortal Alan Shearer while Kieran Richardson became a fan favorite since that splendid free kick which gave the Wearsiders a rare derby success at home – their first in 28 years – in October 2008. For the new boys of Sunderland it will be a stimulating challenge, as Sebastian Larsson explains:
Sunderland fans will also be wary since last season’s drubbing at St. James Park where they went on the back of three successive clean sleets. It’s a day still playing in the mind of Steve Bruce: “I have to live with that result, and that half an hour where it all went wrong for us, for the rest of my days – it’s not something I can forget even if I tried.” The 50-year-old manager is aware that only a win tomorrow can bring consolation. He said: “Only a win will be good enough if we want to try and leave the 5-1 game behind us. It’s what we’ll be going for on Saturday.”
Sunderland have finished ahead of the Magpies for the last three seasons but in head-to-head results they still lag behind with just one win out of their last 13 meetings while losing seven of them. It’s this pattern that Bruce will be hoping to break, desperately.