This Sunday sees the 147th meeting between bitter rivals Sunderland A.F.C and the horse abusing mob they call Newcastle United. After a humiliating 3-0 defeat for the Magpies last season, which saw Newcastle fall victim to the sheer force and precision of a David Vaughan rocket, the 'Toon' as they like to be called will be seeking revenge. What better place to attempt this, than at the best stadium in the world; The Stadium of Light. For all those people who are yet to witness this derby I have comprised a list of 10 things to possibly expect from Sunday's Fixture.
1) A score draw - the ultimate anti-climax for such a high-profile game. For weeks, fans of both sides spend their days and nights dreaming of that 3-0 win that will secure the bragging rights for another year. The absolute feeling of Elysium that slowly slips away from your grasp as you sit precariously on your 1-0 first-half lead. Those texts you sent your mate twenty minutes before full-time seemed such a good idea, you thought you had it in the bag. Oh how you were wrong, that corner kick ten minutes from time that ricochets around the penalty area only to be booted in by a low-profile centre-half (Nikos Dabizas). Five out of the past ten Tyne-Wear Derbies stretching back to 2007 have ended in a score draw. Stick your house on it.
2) Centre-half mishaps - I can see it now, Stephen Taylor, the Geordie Legend and all round knob head misjudging the pass back from an overpaid midfield player. Unsure whether to head, knee or kick the ball, his body spasms as he falls over and allows the opposition striker an attempt through on goal. (Note: this never ends in a goal. The striker will most definitely plod slowly towards goal, weighing up his options only to fire a shot into the keeper’s midriff.) Mishap two in the series of centre-half mishaps is the clanger that I would often associate with the lovable but slow John O'Shea. As the goalkeeper lashes a long ball up the field, O'Shea sits comfortably at the half-way line, trying to adjust his body to perform the backwards jog, he stumbles, causing that nippy international striker to bear down on goal and score.
3) A red card for the captain - the captain, the leader, the player whose duty it is to die for the team. For the sake of old times I will make an example of the much improved Lee Cattermole. As the ball bobbles around the centre-circle, Cattermole sees the opportunity to perform the perfect tackle, the tackle that in his mind is already appearing in the montages on Match of the Day. Unfortunately, Tyne-Wear derbies are never that romantic and the impending result is a harsh late tackle which sees the unforgiving Toon player squealing on the floor. The captain will plead his innocence, gesturing to the ref 'I got the ball' but in what seems to be a hasty decision, in the heat of the moment, the referee, probably Howard Webb will send him for an early bath.
4 )Alan Pardew's fake injury list - ‘Alan Pardew has confirmed that Fabricio Coloccini will not feature in Sunday's match against Sunderland' confirms Sky Sports. Somehow, the player that was bearing a hamstring injury just days ago is now cured; hurrah, it's a miracle. The funny thing is that Pardew genuinely believes he is a tactical genius. I can see it now, John Carver being called to Pardew's office anticipating a piece of Pardew's tactical wisdom. It would be understandable if your fake injury list had the attributes of the Barcelona bench and the presence to throw the opposition off their game. Ha'way Alan, Fabricio Coloccini isn't exactly Tyneside's answer to Carles Puyol.
5) Overly passionate Newcastle fans on Sky Sports’ coverage - whether or not it's the shot of the fat blob who sports 'NUFC' across his lager infested gut or the group of 14-year-olds in the background of the Sky reporter’s shot, you are sure to witness the fans who seem to have practised their lines into their bedroom mirror and spent the majority of their lives trying to perfect their image of looking like they are in a firm. Which brings me nicely onto my next point.
6) 'Your support is f**king shit' - ah... How witty can a set of fans be? Along with this classic, I'm sure the Toon fans will have plenty time to come up with something they perceive as insulting or degrading to our club while they fester in the rafters of the North Stand. Whatever they come up with, normally something they can clap along to and repeat for the majority of the game it will never be as good as the Kieron Dyer song, or more recently 'Stephen Taylor; we wish you were dead'.
7) A Terrible Standard of Football - as the 22 players take to the field on Sunday every one of them will be feeling the pressure. They will hope that they can leave the game without being the one who cocks up. The fear the players now feel can only result in one thing. It will reduce any chance of anything intricate, skilful or risky happening in the game. The game will see the players trying their very best to complete the basics and as a result we will see a series of short passes, interceptions, long balls and misjudged tackles which lead to the odd half chance or corner-kick.
8) Unnecessary 50/50 challenges - depending on your views, any tackle towards Stephen Taylor is necessary. Maybe seeing Stephen Taylor getting clattered is worth a sending off. However, for the past month, every player has been informed of how much this game means to the city and to the fans. In the event of any loose ball, it is an unwritten law that one player from each team must sprint as furiously as they can to the ball, hoping to not only win the ball but inflict a dead leg on the unfortunate Geordie advocate. Step up, Lee Cattermole, Craig Gardener and God forbid Modibo Diakite. Every tackle will receive a roar of approval from the home crowd and provide great viewer satisfaction.
9) The winning team’s chances of Europe - whichever team comes out of the game as victors will see the post-match press conference turn to the club’s chances of climbing the table and possibly reaching that overly optimistic goal of reaching the golden gates of the Europa League. Football is a game that can often be over-exaggerated. Sky Sports will do a brilliant job of depicting the game as some form of war, similar to that of Israel and Palestine.
Finally, the tenth point eludes me. Whatever happens Sunday, form does not come into question, it’s a matter of who turns up on the day and is prepared to take the risks. Despite Sunderland's underwhelming start to the season it's the perfect chance to revitalise with a much needed win over our biggest rivals. Forget your El Clasico, forget your Old Firm, come Sunday afternoon the Stadium of Light will house the best derby in the land.