Sunday sees the most crucial Tyne-Wear derby in recent history take place at St. James’s Park. The game between Newcastle and Sunderland is the one every fan looks forward to anyway, but this match has so many subplots and elements to it that it has football fans all over the country talking about it.
Both teams are stuck desperately in the league’s relegation quagmire sinking deeper and deeper into trouble.
Newcastle have sacked their head coach and replaced him with a manager of genuine pedigree. The fixture is Benitez’s first game in charge at St James’s Park in front of his own fans. The managers of both teams infamously do not see eye-to-eye and have had very public spats in the past.
Sunderland’s manager was sacked by Newcastle owner Mike Ashley and subsequently ‘Big Sam’ claimed Newcastle weren’t ‘big’ enough for him!
The game is a new manager’s second fixture after being appointed, something Sunderland have done three times before, winning on each occasion. Sunderland have won the past six derbies. It is something of the like we have never seen before, but ultimately it all comes down to three measly points that could make or break either side’s bid for survival.
The win for Norwich means that even if Newcastle were to win the game, they would still not climb out of the relegation zone. But interestingly you could argue that the Norwich win actually puts a little more pressure on Sunderland to win the game whereas before Saturday, a draw would have seen the Mackems remain above the relegation zone.
For Newcastle it means that victory is absolutely crucial. With only eight games remaining after this one, we will be cut adrift if the unthinkable happens.
In many ways all the usual things we would be looking for in a new manager’s first few games; formation, selection, motivation, tactics, substitutions, performances etc are all rather irrelevant.
All that really matters is those three points. Three vital points, three pivotal points, three priceless points.
I fully expect Newcastle to come flying out the blocks, roared on by an electric crowd similar to the one which saw Newcastle register a vital win to stay up on the final day of last season against West Ham. Who was their manager that day? Oh yeah! Yes, a repeat of that would do very nicely indeed.
Whether at the game, in the pub or at home, enjoy the game folks; it’s going to be edge of your seat stuff!