It’s always intrigued me how individual NUFC fans see their club’s relationship with our eternal rivals down the road.
I mean we all chant ‘we hate Sunderland’ on match days but does the rivalry mean different things to fans living where they hardly ever come across the great unwashed such as the North bank of the Tyne or in the Milan area for instance; to people like myself who live on the proverbial front line in South Tyneside?
Not only is my local area positively crawling with them, I also had the great misfortune of attending the University of Sunderland (which ironically very few Mackems attend as they have little concept of higher education) the high point being me and my mate walking across the queermouth bridge the day after the 5-1 derby with Newcastle tops on. Yes, we received a good mixture of cheers and death threats. So, as you can see I’ve had more than my fair share of exposure in recent times.
The more you interact with the other side, the more you get to see they will point to anything that indicates the Sunderland are superior to Newcastle in some way. Maybe its their endemic selective memories kicking in again or maybe, just maybe, its the fact that as of Saturday they are now 4 points ahead of us in the Premier League. My question is that while it’s obviously important to be successful as a club and attempt to win trophies; but is it also important to get ahead of and finish above Sunderland as well, or would many be happy to just take six points off them every season?
The season before last was the latest time Sunderland finished above us when West Brom came from behind to draw 3-3 with us at home on the last day of the season. Boos quite rightly rang out at the final whistle and the team was criticised for failing to realize the significance of the result. Was the negative reaction mainly because we were overtaken by our rivals or more simply that we had lost a lead? Does being behind Sunderland in the league effect the morale of the supporters and in turn effect the players and put more pressure on them and the coaching staff to return to the natural order of things?
Is currently being lower than our rivals on of the main problems Pardew has to deal with if he wants to remain in his job until the end of the season? For me the day that Sunderland moved ahead us of was a watershed moment and in fortunes of this season in particular, will you feel finishing the season as second best in the North East constitute another failure of an already poor season? With a home derby looming on the horizon many feel that we are in the most vulnerable position to defend our home record against Sunderland for years. We have an important run of games coming up which might determine our fate and if Pardew isn’t given the chop after them, how will he fair if the unthinkable happens come April 13th?