PAOLO Di Canio admitted the drama and excitement of his first Tyne-Wear derby lived up to all his expectations.
And the Italian believes the thrilling and comprehensive victory Sunderland produced on enemy soil could be the key to turning their season around.
The win lifted Sunderland from 31 points to 34 and hoisted them from 17th to 15th place in the Premier League.
And Di Canio said that – although winning the derby was special – simply winning a game of football was the most important thing for him as Sunderland’s new boss.
“I’m very happy obviously to have won the derby, but my intention was not to think about the history of it – I know that there is a great rivalry in the area,” Di Canio said.
“The most important thing for me was to get the three points, because of the situation we are in in the league.
“To do it away from home against Newcastle was fantastic because the difference between losing and winning was massive and could have an effect on the rest of our season.
“My players are happy, they can’t stop being happy, and I understand that, because it is such a massive win for this area.
“But we have to be aware that we are not safe yet and still have much to do.”
Though the victory on Tyneside was Sunderland’s first in a dozen years, Di Canio said he was not surprised by the result. “The performance did not exceed my expectations because I had seen us play well against Chelsea the previous week,” he argued.
“They gave me a great response in just a few days and that gave me more faith, even after losing at Stamford Bridge and having one game less to save ourselves.
“Against Chelsea, I thought we played very well for 50 minutes – this time we played better for longer.
“I told the players that it was important to work very hard to put challenges in – to show that we were fighting for the future – and my players did that.
“They deserved this result, because they were warriors.”
Di Canio, too, was at the eye of the storm – lauded by one set of fans, taunted by the other – but he did not mind it one bit.
“It’s a special derby,” he said.
“The Rome derby and the Celtic derby, they are amazing, but they are between fans in the same city.
“I can’t think of anywhere where two cities are so close to each other at this level of football – just a few miles apart – and perhaps that is why the passion is so great.
“This was a beautiful game for me, a beautiful derby to be involved in.
“I don’t mind at all receiving stick because it may have distracted the pressure from my players.
“But the atmosphere was fantastic. This derby was fantastic.
“Especially because we won.”