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So Salut! Sunderland‘s buildup preparations for the Wear-Tyne derby are just about done. Ticket is sorted, travel plans have been made. Look at the home page – www.salutsunderland.com – and you’ll find a prize Guess the Score and updated look at the interview with a Mag that won last season’s HAWAY top prize. At least one new Who are You? interview will run between now and the weekend. We must all therefore be raring to go. We cannot wait. The excitement has got to us. Yes but only up to a point. Pete Sixsmith has seen dozens of Wear-Tyne and Tyne-Wear derbies and just wants it over with. Then again, as our Newcastle-supporting HAWAY winner Nick Donaldson said last season (it was repeated here the other day: ‘Nearly 30 years away [from the North East] now and all I have ever witnessed is mild interest bordering on couldn’t-give-a-tossment. It’s only a big deal in the North East, but that doesn’t diminish it. It’s our derby, not theirs. – See more at: https://safc.blog/2015/10/safc-vs-newcastle-united-2-the-mag-who-loves-mackems/#sthash.OTVhh9Z0.dpuf …
Sunday looms on the horizon and with it the most important Wear-Tyne derby since the last one.
Not for the first time, both clubs are faffing around at the bottom of the table and the most intense derby in English football is being fought out against a backdrop of doom and gloom.
It may be that some of the old d and g may have been lifted on Tyneside after they took Norwich City to the cleaners on Saturday, but past form goes out of the window when it comes to this particular game. It needs to for our sake – this is the worst return we have had from the opening nine games since three points for a win was introduced in 1981.
It will also be a game played out to a background of loathing from both sets of fans. Jack Colback will feel the ire of those who once adored him while Adam Johnson will be reviled even more unmercifully than he has been for the last six months.
There will be a huge police presence, horses may or may not be punched and the sanctimonious will be dipping their pens in green ink to decry football supporters and ask why they can’t be more like those sporting rugger chaps who took over Newcastle a couple of weeks ago.
But it wasn’t always like that. Yes, there has been rivalry between the two clubs since our first meeting in 1898 (as always, we led, they followed) and it has degenerated into violence with brakes being stoned, pitch invasions and fisticuffs between men wearing flat caps and mufflers. It is only in the last 40 years that things have degenerated into the Orwellian Ninety Minutes Hate that we have now. In the past many Sunderland fans went to SJP for their games and an equal number would make a fortnightly trek to Roker.
I even did it myself…..
Now, there’s a confession. When I was a boy in my teens, I would sometimes catch the OK service bus to Newcastle with a couple of pals and watch Newcastle when the pocket money and paper round pay would not stretch to a cheap day return to Nottingham on dear old British Rail.
I even went as a neutral and had no great desire to see Newcastle lose, although it was a pleasant journey home if we had won and they had lost – not something which happened very often. I even went with a school haversack that had the names of Sunderland players (badly) painted on it. I remember comparing notes on the merits of Jim Baxter and Trevor Hockey in the Main Stand Paddock with a stalwart Newcastle fan.
I think the mood changed in the late 60s. A group of Newcastle fans got into the Fulwell End early and there were scuffles. Sunderland fans threw a sack full of weapons over the wall and attempted to use them, leading to mayhem and menace. It went downhill from then.
There were two particularly unpleasant New Year’s Days, which both ended in 3-1 defeats. The 1985 one was a genuinely grim experience with Howard Gayle and Gary Bennett taking some fearful abuse from sections of the Newcastle support for the colour of their skins rather than their footballing skills.
I have to say that I don’t enjoy these games. The atmosphere, the tension, the sheer gut wrenching possibilities that you may not win this game and the woodwork will open up and all kinds of trolls will crawl out. And it will be exactly the same feeling for Newcastle fans if we should win for the first time this season.
I was looking at a list of those who have played for both clubs. There are some interesting names from my time, starting with Stan Anderson and moving through Dave Elliott, Ron Guthrie, Alan Foggon, Billy Whitehust, Paul Bracewell, Lee Clark and Titus Bramble. And now we have a manager who has been in charge for both clubs. We hope that his tenure on the sunny banks of the Wear is better than the time he spent on the dark and gloomy sides of the Tyne.