Echo survey: Sunderland can finish above Newcastle

Stephane Sessegnon scores the opening goal in the 3-0 win at Newcastle

Stephane Sessegnon scores the opening goal in the 3-0 win at Newcastle

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THE BRAGGING rights very much belonged to Sunderland after the unforgettable 3-0 rout at St James’s Park.

But for the second consecutive season, Newcastle finished above their local rivals in the Premier League table to take the title of North East top dogs.

There was little for the Magpies to crow about after mustering just two more points than Sunderland and ending in 16th position, only one place above the Black Cats.

But it was a dismal campaign for both sides.

Although Newcastle managed to reach the quarter finals of the Europa League, the demands of European competition took their toll on the bread and butter of the Premier League.

A succession of injuries aggravated the situation and Alan Pardew was forced to fast-track his summer transfer plans to January, in a bid to stave off the looming threat of the drop.

Initially, the influx of French players provided an upturn in results, but as the campaign dragged on, rumours of a dressing room split began to emerge.

Ultimately, Newcastle and Sunderland will both be plying their trade in the top flight next season.

But can the Black Cats make it third time lucky in finishing above their rivals though?

Almost three-quarters of those polled in the Echo’s survey have backed Paolo Di Canio’s side to pip their nearest and dearest next season, with many supporters predicting the question marks over Alan Pardew’s future to be at the root of Newcastle’s downfall.

Roy Mills, from Roker, said: “Pardew is a one trick pony. He has proved that with all the clubs he has managed. He will quickly lose the backing of the owner if they don’t get off to a good start.”

It’s a view shared by South Shields’ Dan Ward: “The rot has set in under Pardew at Newcastle and I certainly have more confidence in Di Canio to set things right at Sunderland than Pardew over there.”

Dominic Oliver, from Low Fell, agrees that Sunderland can pip the Magpies in the top flight table, but sounded a note of caution that it will depend on Di Canio’s signings in the transfer market this summer.

“As long as we sign right then there’s no reason why not,” he said.

Those concerns about Sunderland’s personnel were behind the bulk of those who offered a gloomier prophecy.

The significant overhaul required at the Stadium of Light, coupled with the existing strength at St James’s, was the main reason behind those who predicted that Newcastle will again finish above Sunderland next season.

Grant Richardson, from Fulwell, said: “Di Canio has a huge rebuilding job which will not happen overnight and sadly feel they have more quality in their squad.”

Lincoln’s Martin Barwick agreed: “At present I feel their squad is stronger than ours and many of their youngsters are going to get better. Hopefully a lot can change before August and we can revamp ourselves so we are stronger.”