NEWCASTLE boss Alan Pardew is under no illusions about how important a derby win can be – and points to the August clash between the two sides as evidence.
As just the second game of a new campaign, the Stadium of Light meeting was a chance for both clubs to set the tone for their seasons.
Pardew had endured a difficult summer, with unrest among his squad, sales of key players and an influx of signings largely inexperienced in Premier League terms meaning they were heavily tipped for a season of struggle.
With a number of the old guard that had served Newcastle so well dispensed with, the new boys were instantly put under pressure to deliver.
But they did – with a performance epitomising the battling qualities and spirit that has been a mainstay of Newcastle’s campaign.
Yohan Cabaye, brought in to effectively replace departed skipper Kevin Nolan, had big boots to fill.
But he proved that he could mix Gallic flair with crunching tackles, picking up a booking for a heavy tackle and also testing Sunderland keeper Simon Mignolet with a 30-yard effort, as a strong midfield partnership with Cheik Tiote showed signs of flourishing.
Gabriel Obertan was a threat with his pace on the counter-attack, while at the other end, Newcastle’s defence soaked up everything Sunderland could throw at them as they chased an equaliser to Ryan Taylor’s free-kick goal.
It didn’t come, and instead Newcastle went, temporarily, to the top of the league.
Newcastle have rarely looked back since as they have stayed in the upper echelons of the Premier League.
It’s something Pardew would never have realistically dreamed of back in August, and he credits that derby win for giving his side the confidence and belief that they could confound the doubters and have a successful season.
“It showed the character that we had,” the Magpies’ manager admitted.
“It came so early in the season and it was a great lift for us.
“We were a new team and a lot of players hadn’t played in the Premier League. For the likes of Cabaye it was his second game, and it was just a massive result for us.”
Pardew is now looking to for a repeat win – though he has warned his players that their past success over Sunderland will count for nothing come high noon on Sunday.
“The game sets itself apart from any other game that has gone before,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter what has gone on before. Everything that has happened before is almost irrelevant really.
“What it will be about is the day itself and how we play.”