Well it’s nearly upon us. The 146th Tyne-Wear derby is just a day away from taking place at St James’ Park in a what is sure to be a cauldron of atmosphere and fervour.
The rivalry between Newcastle and Sunderland always reminds of a saying. They are always trying to get one over on us but ultimately end up failing most of the time. It’s become quite humorous. They try and keep up with the Jones’ who have just brought a shiny new BMW by purchasing an equally shiny and new Lada.
I mean the very fact that they are harping about a 9-1 defeat they inflicted on us 104 years ago kind of highlights the desperate lengths these Mackems will go to. I always ask them if they remember it, because I remember the 5-1 result last season very well, and the 4-1 at the Stadium of Light. the proclamation that they are the “top dogs” started when weren’t even in the same league as them. A hollow victory, like winning an egg and spoon race by virtue of being the only one entering the competition.
Of course they did finish above us last season, which will naturally put some gloss on their season after we beat them 5-1 and drew with them 1-1 at the Stadium of Light – the now departed Asamoah Gyan with an injury time equaliser prompting wild scenes of celebration on Wearside that haven’t been seen since 1973.
However when it comes to head-to-head records we are the top dogs. We’ve not lost a derby at St James’ Park since 2000, we’ve only lost a Tyne-Wear derby three times since the inception of the Premier League, and if you go back further than that you will see that we’ve won 53 times compared to their 45 with the other 47 occasions ending up as draws.
Steven Taylor, Sylvain Marveaux, Nile Ranger, Leon Best, Steve Harper and Sammy Ameobi are all ruled out through injury. Papiss Cisse should be fit to feature after pulling out of international duty in midweek while other international players like Cheik Tiote, Davide Santon and Tim Krul all returned from international duty unscathed.
Titus Bramble and Wes Brown remain on the sidelines and will definitely not be featuring. There are also doubts over Phil Bardsley and Stephane Sessegnon however with the former being sent home from international duty and the latter struggling to get home from Africa after missing a connecting flight. Personally I think they’ll both feature. David Vaughan could return to the starting line-up after a spell on the sidelines.
Perceptions are funny things. On one hand the perception is that the wheels are starting to fall off the Toon wagon while on the other it would appear that Martin O’Neill is working minor miracles at Sunderland. The real truth is that over our last six games we’ve picked up more points than Sunderland have – 10 against their 9. Also both sides have been on the end of thumpings in recent weeks.
Then again, this is a derby and form tends to go out of the window. I remember last season we were “light years” behind them and they couldn’t beat us, while this season we were relegation fodder and beat them again, in their own back yard…
Tactic talk and team selection.
Much has been made of tactics in the run up to this match. Both managers have come under a bit of criticism from sections of their own support for their tactical approach – Pardew for his 4-4-2 and O’Neill for his 4-5-1 while using Stephane Sessegnon as a lone striker.
Despite the strains of criticism I can’t see either manager changing things, in fact we’ve had word from Alan Pardew saying pretty much that it will be 4-4-2 as he has to fit his two strikers in and two key midfielders in. In that instance the success of the match will depend in how we deal with Sunderland’s five man central midfield.
It’s something we have struggled with this season in truth. We get overrun against five men as they outnumber our four (sounds simple doesn’t it?) and struggle to get a foothold in the game. This is what a lot of teams do to us nowadays unless they feel they are better than us, like Manchester United who also went 4-4-2 against us and found themselves resoundingly beaten.
We have our back five. Whatever your view on them we know it will be Tim Krul between the sticks with Danny Simpson at right-back, Davide Santon at left-back with Mike Williamson and Fabricio Coloccini paired in central defence once more. Before anyone has kittens bear in mind that the only change from that defence and the one that helped beat Sunderland 5-1 last season is Davide Santon for Jose Enrique.
In fact we can go further than just the defence and name pretty much the rest of the team. We know it will be Jonas on the left with Cheik Tiote and Yohan Cabaye in the middle and we know both Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse (if fit) will start up front. That just leaves one spot – the much debated right-wing spot!
Who fills it depends on a number of factors. Do we need pace to help out at the back and get forward? Use Obertan. Do we need a bit of skill and guile to open things up? Use Ben Arfa. Do we need an extra hand from set-pieces and a threat from free-kicks? Use Ryan Taylor.
All three of them have plus and minus points in truth but I’d probably plump with Gabriel Obertan. Ryan Taylor really showed himself up against Wolves although he wasn’t the only one. However fans want to get back to winning way, and understandably so, so why not try reverting back as close as we can to the team that started off the season so well?
Just an idea.
Mike Dean is the man in the middle for this one. I don’t like him. He’s taken charge of Newcastle games twice this season overseeing a win at Stoke and a loss at home against Chelsea – the match where he inexplicably failed to send off David Luiz in the opening minutes of the match despite him being the last man and denying a clear goalscoring opportunity. According to Dean it wasn’t a clear goalscoring opportunity, which baffled me as Demba Ba was dead centre of the pitch and through on goal.
He also gave a rather weak penalty against us at the Britannia during the 3-1 win against Stoke, although in fairness he balanced that decision out and awarded us an equally weak penna after foul on Leon Best.
The nerves are starting to kick-in now, it’s official. I’m gutted that I won’t be making the match as it’s the first one I’ve missed in years. However, work calls I’m afraid. Would love to be going though so if you are make it a cracker and really be the 12th man. I mean that in a non-condescending manner by the way, I’m not telling you to support the team or anything like that. That will come as standard against this lot.
Most important of all, be safe. Have a good time by all means, but don’t be silly. Remember, people are watching this one so let’s set an example by showing why we are the best fans in the land!
Howay the lads!
Date: Sunday, 4th March, 2012
Venue: St James’ Park