LEE CATTERMOLE today called on Sunderland’s ringleaders to follow Newcastle’s trail and handle the derby pressure cooker.
Sunderland choked in both encounters against the Magpies last season as Newcastle’s on-field generals Kevin Nolan, Andy Carroll and Joey Barton thrived in the white-hot atmosphere.
Steve Bruce’s men froze in the 5-1 barrage at St James’s Park and were fortunate to escape with a last-gasp 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture.
But skipper Cattermole insists those who played in either encounter will have learned from the experience, with the 23-year-old facing Newcastle for the first time in a red and white shirt last season.
And with Nolan and Carroll moving to pastures new and Sunderland recruiting players who have experienced the ferocity of Manchester and Birmingham derbies, Cattermole hopes the Black Cats now have the psychological edge.
Cattermole told the Echo: “They had big personalities and big leaders on the pitch last year, like Nolan and Barton.
“That counts at times, but what we’ve done this summer is bring in big characters and hopefully that will help us.
“We’ve got a lot more experience under our belts and it counts. We’ll definitely be more aware of what we’re facing this year.
“It was intense and a massive game last year. But it affected us more than it’s going to this year. We’re much more experienced now.
“The lads who played in it last year will have learned from it, myself included. I’m sure we’ll produce a better display.
“Even though we got beat 5-1, I still loved being in the stadium with all the fans against us.
“But on the day, no-one turned up. I think (Phil) Bardsley had a good game but that was about it.
“Even the likes of Benty (Darren Bent) froze and we had a lot of younger ones like Jordan (Henderson) who struggled.
“It’s hard when it gets like that, the pitch felt massive and you didn’t know where your team-mates were.”
Newcastle have endured a tumultuous summer with key figures Nolan and Jose Enrique leaving St James’s Park and Barton criticising the club’s
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hierarchy on social networking site Twitter before being transfer-listed.
But Cattermole knows Sunderland still need to perform if they are to notch their first derby victory since 2008.
The midfielder added: “I think Sunderland are a much more stable and healthy club at the minute, but I don’t think that counts for anything when it comes to derby day.
“Newcastle have got a squad of players who are all good players and when it kicks off it’s so fast and furious.
“You need eight out of your 11 to put in good performances.
“Hopefully with the lads we’ve brought in, I think we’ll be able to go out and put on a better performance.
“It gets talked about for weeks and weeks, but the lads have to look at it like any other game.
“The 5-1 is going to get talked about because we got a drubbing.
“Maybe, we were underestimated them in the first game and then the second one, we couldn’t afford to lose and didn’t play that well either.
“We’ve just got to concentrate on ourselves. I know the fans are up and it’s a big day for them and if we can come out on top, it will be brilliant.”