For most Premier League viewers in the US, this week’s version of ‘Super Sunday’ is all about the matchup between big money clubs, Chelsea and Manchester City. There are actually four other BPL matches on Sunday, two of them are on at the same time as Chelsea-City: Tottenham-Hull City and Swansea City-West Ham United. It’s safe to say these matches will have a significantly smaller viewing audience.
But the first match of the day on Super Sunday is the only one in its time slot, the Tyne-Wear Derby.
The kick-off between Sunderland and Newcastle United is scheduled for 9:30am EST (6:30am PST). It’s safe to say the majority of viewers will overlook this contest or chose to stay tucked in their beds for a few more hours. But they would be missing out on one of the more intense English derbies on the calendar.
Last season at the Stadium of Light, there were two goals, a sending off, and tons of hostility. Sunderland has only won two of their last seventeen derbies. But new manager Gus Poyet has a good record against Newcastle and home advantage, so Sunderland will feel they have more than a chance.
Strange things happen all the time in derby matches. Just look at the London derby result between Tottenham and West Ham from three weeks ago.
Sunderland-Newcastle will surely provide some heated moments which will warm your Sunday morning (no matter where in the world you are). These matches are rarely nil-nil as both clubs always come looking for three points against each other. The Stadium of Light will be packed to the rafters and full of noise. The Tyne-Wear Derby is a rivalry that goes beyond football and dates back to the English Civil War.
It is not something football fans will want to sleep through.
Some Sunderland fans have been commenting that they would rather win these derbies and be relegated, than lose to their bitter rivals. Those fans should probably be institutionalized, but it shows the feverish passion this game invokes.
Despite their poor record, Sunderland supporters have never wavered in their loyalty to the club. The Stadium of Light continues to be at near capacity every week (they are averaging a little over 42,000 a match) and the noise has been deafening at times. This match will undoubtedly bring out the best of the supporters in the North East of England.
For Sunderland, this match can energize supporters and jump start their season (apologies for the overused cliché).
The club is bottom of the table, sitting on ONE POINT after eight matches, and has a goal differential of -15. They are seven points from safety (really eight points because of the goal differential) and truth be told there isn’t a club in the Premiership that looks as bad as Sunderland. Sometimes a poor record can be chalked up to a combination poor luck, injuries, or bad management. But Sunderland has had all of these and they just appear like a club on its way out of the league.
Gus Poyet entered the picture last week and didn’t have much time to get to know his new players due to the international break. Because of the timing of Paolo Di Canio’s firing, Poyet can really only focus on fundamentals and set-pieces until there is more of a break in the schedule.
In his first match in charge, Sunderland was more defensively sound for long periods of the game against Swansea City before they capitulated and allowed four unanswered goals.
In that match, you got the feeling that if Sunderland had gotten the first goal, they might have been able to hold on for a huge three points. They had the better scoring chances through halftime and looked to have a chance. But once Phil Bardsley inadvertently scored an own goal, you could visibly see the emotion drained from the team by the way their heads dropped and their shoulders sunk.
Do not be fooled by the record, Sunderland have quality and solid Premier League players.
Possible Game Changers for Sunderland:
Emanuele Giaccherini could start for many Premier League clubs. The former Juventus midfielder was a surprise signing for Sunderland this summer. Although he only stand 5ft 5in (1.67m), he is strong on the ball and a tireless worker.
Craig Gardner is tied with Giaccherini for the team lead in goals. The former England Under-21 midfielder is only twenty-six years old and has played for Aston Villa, Birmingham City and now, Sunderland. He’s a typical fierce English competitor who wears his emotions on his sleeve. An intense matchup like this one is right up is alley.
Sebastian Larsson is a set-piece, free-kick wizard. He has struggled for playing time this year. But if he’s on the pitch and Sunderland has a corner or free-kick, there could be some magic.
Steven Fletcher has suffered through injuries. But he’s back now is without a doubt Sunderland’s best chance at scoring goals. He only has one goal to date, but the 26-year-old forward has 100 career goals in all competitions (Scotland and England). Since Jozy Altidore has previously struggled in the Premier League and has yet to open his account this year, Fletcher represents Sunderland’s best scoring option at forward.
Newcastle continues to be one of the best supported clubs in England. They have continually packed 50,000 people into St. James’ Park, even during the 2009-10 season when they were playing in the Championship.
Despite the recent off-the-field issues between supporters, Newcastle owner Mike Ashley, Director of Football Joe Kinnear and manager Alan Pardew, the Magpies are doing well in the league. After starting the season with a 4-0 thrashing at Manchester City, Newcastle are tenth place in the Premiership on eleven points.
They are feeling good after a 2-2 draw with Liverpool which saw the Magpies take a lead despite having a man sent off in the first half. The effort in that match can only help the team heading into the fiery North East derby.
And of course, Newcastle will be looking to avenge the 3-0 defeat they endured at St. James’ Park towards the end of last season. The Sunderland celebrations on their home pitch should still be seared in their memories.
When asked about the last meeting between the two clubs, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew said, “I hope there are mental scars from that game. You want your players to use that as a positive, of course.” He went on to say, ““This match dominates the season and definitely has more edge.”
This match against their North East rivals could unify the club and its supporters. The fans have not been happy with the actions and words of their owner, Director of Football, and manager over the past few weeks. There is a lot of distrust towards these three individuals. But Newcastle has slowly started to hit their form.
The worst possible outcome for all involved would be for the Magpies to lose this match. It could literally set off a fire storm of anger from supporters. So you can count on the manager and players being focused and ready to make a statement in Sunderland.
Newcastle full-back Davide Santon (who is sidelined by injury) has this to say, “It is absolutely crucial we do not lose because this game means so much to the fans.”
Possible Game Changers for Newcastle United
Loïc Rémy is one of the best strikers you’ve never heard of. People are now starting to see why Harry Redknapp chased the French forward for so long. Rémy (on-loan from QPR) is quick, good on the ball, and doesn’t need much room to get a shot off. He could be one of the best finishers in the Premiership. Rémy currently has five goals in five games for Newcastle.
Fabricio Coloccini is as solid a defender as it comes. The 31-year-old has been battling injury since Argentina’s World Cup Qualifiers. But Newcastle is hoping he will be in the lineup come Sunday.
Hatem Ben Arfa is not shy of shooting the ball and there is no doubting his ability. The French midfielder can break down any defense and provide a match winning goal at any time. He could be the player who leaves his stamp on this match.
Yohan Cabaye is Newcastle United’s best all-around player. It could be argued that the club’s determination to hold on to the player, despite interest from Arsenal, may have saved their season. The 27-year-old French-international midfielder would start for any of the Top Four clubs in the league. Cabaye can impact a game in any number of ways. His distribution is excellent, and his vision allows him to dictate play from a central position. He has a unique set of talents which he often uses to devastating effect.
For those football fans who don’t live in the North East of England and will be lying in bed come kick-off for the Tyne-Wear derby on Sunday morning: set your alarm clock to go off a little earlier, start the coffer maker, toast up a bagel or two, and get comfortable in front of the television while the sun slowly creeps through your window. This match will spark your day to life and provide a great warm up for the next match of the day. Sunderland-Newcastle is another in a long line of great football rivalries. It never fails to provide some talking points for later in the day.
…or you can just set the DVR and snooze a little longer.