Can’t we look beyond finishing higher than Newcastle?

weartyneThe question behind my question was posed by the Shields Gazette. Who will finish higher?

The responses of partisan fans are probably meaningless. Which Mackem will say: “Toon, without a doubt”?

And how many Mags would admit they expect to find us uncatchable?

To be fair, the paper did ask a neutral living in South Shields. Jeff Evans, a Manchester United fan, said: “Sunderland do look strong and they should be okay. With Newcastle, time will tell.”

But Sunderland, with the greatest of respect to Newcastle, should be reflecting on headier things than just ending the season above the Mags. They have just come up and therefore, like us in recent times, are lucky if they don’t start among many people’s favourites to go straight back down again.

Toon, theoretically, should be concerned more than anything with just making sure they avoid the drop. Relegation shouldn’t be anywhere near Sunderland minds. We are, or should be, pushing for the top 10 place set a year ago by the owner Ellis Short. And better than tenth.

Ah, but life isn’t as simple as that. We’ve deluded ourselves too often in the past, suffered rather too much disappointment, to take anything for granted. One or two perfectly sensible older supporters have already wittered gloomily about our preparations for the new season, though the return of John Mensah will improve their spirits.

In the wider game, people give barely a moment’s thought to whether Sunderland will finish above Newcastle.

There is no doubt that the question of who ends up as the North East’s top dog gives a buzz to plenty of supporters of both sides,.

I may be in a minority: yes, I laughed at the Mags’ relegation, which helped save us in a season when we were almost as dire as them but also seemed appropriate punishment for their unbearable, “too big to fall” arrogance. But I’m old-fashioned enough to be pleased to see them back – and would, in an ideal world, be looking for Boro’s name on the fixtures list, too.

There was a time – 1908/09 to be precise – when it was possible for a Newcastle fan to laugh off being beaten 9-1 at home by Sunderland because United somehow ended up winning the title.

These days, my own ambitions in terms of Wear/Tyne rivalry are less dramatic: I don’t expect us to win at St James’ Park by more than one or two goals and I hardly think it would be controversial to suggest the title may be beyond both teams.

Showing ourselves to have moved on to a higher level than Newcastle would be nice, but only as a bonus to reaching the closing stages of the season with a respectable chance of grabbing a place in Europe.


Colin Randall


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14 thoughts on “Can’t we look beyond finishing higher than Newcastle?”

  1. Just doing my fantasy football team…should I include Bramble as he is a good price…has he got over the bad spell he once went through? I actually quite like you geordies (good supporters…even if I can’t understand a word you’re saying) and I can’t wait for a really interesting season!

  2. Good article… Am a Toon fan and think whilst our bragging rights and rivalry is always good crack, there’s no need for any real hatred – ultimately it would be great to see all the North East teams get better, seasons without derbies definitely lose out a bit and really we should stick together against the rest of the country! You defo deserved a laugh at our expense during our relegation, we truly were a Comedy Club with all the daft Ashley shenanigans. Am just happy were back after a really enjoyable break in the fizzy and don’t expect or demand anyting daft of this year. Would be good to see us all do more in the Prem than we have for the last few years. Imagine the buzz of of us fighting it out near the top (can but dream for the future)! You lot have a decent squad now, sound owners, a cracking striker in Bent (jealous!) and a fairly capable, potentially rather good manager (thought was great at Wigan) so best of luck to you all.

  3. I would have to say if sunderland were to finish just above newcastle this season i would class that as a failure on bruce and a success for hughton providing im not talking about the bottom 3 lol. Bearing in mind sunderland have spent as much in the past 2 years if not more in transfers comingin give or take a centre half or two lol that newcastle have received on transfers going out. sunderland spend approx 100m newcastle sold approx 85m which in my eyes means a difference in spending 185m. it will be very interesting where both teams finish for the monies spent or not spent ansd see who is actually getting value for money.

  4. I for one am pleased Newcastle are back and whilst I think it’s great for the area to have two teams in the Premiership, let’s make it three Boro.
    Whilst I’m neither a fan of the manager nor his style of play I do believe for once we’ve a far superior squad. Therefore I would be not only surprised but hugely disappointed if we finished beneath them.
    That said I’d still laugh if they got relegated.

  5. Both teams will have their own agenda this season and it will not involve being above either club.
    That is just bragging rights for the fans.
    The NUFC -V- SAFC issue is really only important twice in a season (unless we meet in the cup).
    As a Geordie, I always enjoy the wins against Sunderland but I’d take two defeats but Premiership safety this season.
    But honestly, if we get Ben Afra in and maybe one more similar type player, I think we’ll be ok.
    I also think Sunderland will be more than ok, possibly top eight and good luck to them.
    My prediction, Newcastle 12th, Sunderland 9th.

  6. I would like all of the North East teams to be in the Premier League… Im a danish Newcastle fan and perhaps the fact that i aint local makes me less hatefull, but i just think that the derby is a bonus to the season. I would rather see sides such as Villa and Spurs get relegated if i got the choice… Regarding who is biggest and who would finish higher, i guess its 2 different questions. Sunderland should without a doubt finish higher, but in terms of fan base and world wide brand it would no doubt be Newcastle who come out on top.

  7. I am old enough to remember when Sunderland v Newcastle was seen as a friendly rivalry in the pit village where I grew up and not the excuse for all out hatred I find when I return to my roots. Of course beating and finishing above the other lot was important and I probably wouldn’t have walked through the Bigg Market with a red and white scarf tied to my wrist, but I don’t remember the rivalry being as nasty as it is these days.

    What fans of both teams seem to share though is the belief that we follow big clubs. In terms of fan base they are of course big clubs and both attract a loyalty that many teams will never enjoy. But in terms of achievement and attracting the big name players we are both on a par with Fulham, Bolton, Everton, West Ham, Villa etc. The Mags won the FA Cup shortly after my first birthday. Since then I saw them win the Inter Cities Fairs Cup in 69 and ourselves the FA Cup in 73. One trophy each and a smattering of second tier titles (and a third) and a few Wembley defeats in 55 years is the reality.

    That’s not to say that those in charge at Sunderland shouldn’t be aiming high. Of course they should, but Quinn and Short seem astute enough to realise that the path trodden by Leeds, Portsmouth and Mike Ashley etc. is not the one to follow. Both teams should be consolidating and building on last season. Realistically I feel that finishing anywhere between 7th and 10th will represent a good season for us and 13th to 17th for the Barcodes.

  8. Echoing the comments of Craig above me, as a Forest fan I would doubt that there will be much to choose between the two sides. Newcastle were head and shoulders the best team in the CCC last season, and although the Prem is most definately a step up in class, I would contaest that the last two seasons have seen the worst quality Premier League since its inception. The gap is not so big as it once was.

    I would expect both teams to be safe by virtue of some really bad sides in the Prem (Blackpool, Wolves, Wigan etc..), but by the same token I would not expect either side to make it into europe, or even challenge. At the end of the season I would predict (if pushed) that both sides will probably be arguing over who finishes 12th and who finishes 13th…big deal eh? Unless you’re a localand braggin rights are at stake.

    Looking at both squads I would think that there is very little to choose between them in terms of quality. Campbell is an extremely risky signing, and Bramble is a ridiculous signing. The Newcastle side that used to be packed with household names is now mainly full of aging journeymen and championship players, the Sunderland side that used to be packed with little known average players, is still exactly that.

    So, in answer to the question posed in the title, I would guess the answer is no, because bragging rights will more than likely be all both teams have to realistically play for in the season.

  9. The relative position of SAFC and NUFC is important locally, and therefore does have significance, but SAFC’s ambition should now take the club beyond local rivalry. Pre-season, in terms of performances and team development (signings and injuries) has been mixed, and the development of young players such as Henderson and Campbell make prediction of the coming season difficult. The squad is too good to be relegated, but I think an opportunity has been missed in not selling Jones and buying a striker with more content in his game. NUFC’s thin squad and lack of striking options will see them struggle, but hopefully they will survive. With one more good signing, SAFC could be at the dawn of a new era of European football.

  10. I don’t blame u for laughing when we were relegated, i would have done the same had it been u lot n its water off a ducks back at the end of the day. The one thing u r wrong about is that we thought we were too big to go down, we had an awful team and an awful season and got what we deserved.

    If we were you this season i would also hope the team could push on and hope the extended blip you had in the middle third doesn’t reoccur.
    I would like to think we can survive this season but would also like mike ashley to catch incurable knob-rot!!
    I do wish you luck, as i do any team outside of the top 6 or so as it is almost impossible to predict the joy or anguish we r about to endure :

  11. The first season back in the Premiership most Newcastle supporters are more concerned about staying up and not whether they will finish above sunderland.
    And the “too big to fall” quote comes from the press,not the
    Newcastle supporters.
    I will be happy if we are clear of the bottom 3 with six games
    left to play.

  12. As a neutral in terms of these two teams i think it is very close between the two teams and in no way should sunderland start getting above their station in terms of being bigger than newcastle. Afterall, newcastle were getting higher attendances in the ccc than sunderland were in the prem. Also, out of 17 years newcastle have spent just one season out of the prem – how many have sunderland????? They key to sunderland in recent times has been the stability, nothing else. Newcatle have had a mental time since ashley bought them out. It looks like stability has now returned to st james for now though…. so all in all, i think that there is nothing to choose between these two teams. both should be safe, neither will make top 7.

  13. yea i think we shud forget bout the mags. we always use the derby games to say how well/bad weve done ina season. we shouldnt think bout them cos theyre not really worth it. well never do anythin worthwhile if all we worry about is nufc.

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