MICHAEL Turner admits Sunderland’s players now have a greater appreciation of the derby stakes after laying to rest the ghost of their 5-1 horror show.
Sunday’s 1-1 draw at the Sports Direct Arena was by far Sunderland’s best performance against Newcastle United since the Magpies were promoted to the Premier League 18 months ago.
The Black Cats had taken just one point from their previous three derby meetings, suffering a 1-0 defeat at the Stadium of Light earlier this season and being thrashed on their last visit to Tyneside.
But Turner believes those experiences have proved to be an education for Sunderland, in alerting them to the magnitude of the derby and the consequences for the losers.
Turner said: “To be honest, the game I played there last year when we got hammered, I don’t think I realised just how big it was.
“I was injured for the home game last season. I was sitting in the stands in that one, desperate for us to win. I was like a fan. From that moment I realised just how big it was.
“So when I went to Newcastle on Sunday, I knew how big it was.
“Until you have played in one, you just don’t know. It was huge to put in a performance and I’m glad we did, even if we didn’t come out with the three points.
“I think it can take until you have played in a derby to realise what it’s like.
“I had never experienced an atmosphere like that and I doubt the other players have. They know all about it now though and I think we coped with it well.”
Centre-half Turner was part of a gutsy rearguard action from the Black Cats at the Sports Direct after Stephane Sessegnon’s dismissal forced Sunderland to defend their lead for the final 30 minutes with just 10 men.
Turner admits Sunderland thought they had done enough – particularly after Simon Mignolet’s penalty save – to take the bragging rights, only for Shola Ameobi to break Wearside hearts in stoppage time.
“It was always going to be hard to defend in that second half and it looked as if we had weathered it,” added the 28-year-old.
“Sessegnon got himself sent off so it was a huge battle for us.
“We looked fairly comfortable, even if they had plenty of corners and shots and we felt we were in control of the situation. It was just disappointing to concede so late.”