Gary Rowell column - Derby win made you proud to be a Sunderland fan

Lee Cattermole
Lee Cattermole
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SUNDERLAND didn’t just give the fans a derby win on Sunday, they gave them a day that will live long in the memory.

In the previous home game against Aston Villa, the fans voted with their feet and many left before half-time. But what a difference this time at the interval, with celebrations that most team’s fans reserve for Wembley cup wins.

In such a huge game, the winning goal deserves to be special and Defoe certainly delivered when it mattered most

Sunderland put Newcastle to the sword, make no mistake about that, and the only surprise was that they only scored one goal.

That made for a nervy last five minutes, but it would have been a major injustice if Sunderland hadn’t collected all three points.

They were better than a poor Newcastle side in every department and crucially for these games, Sunderland looked as if they wanted it more than our biggest rivals.

It was great to see Sunderland’s players all working for each other, in a way that hasn’t always been apparent this season.

They defended from the front, with Jermain Defoe, Connor Wickham and Steven Fletcher all closing down and pressing Newcastle when they were in possession, and from there it spread throughout the team.

They hunted in packs and didn’t allow Newcastle time on the ball, and that gave them the platform to produce a winning performance.

In such a huge game, the winning goal deserves to be special and Defoe certainly delivered when it mattered most. The timing of it just before half-time, shattered the Newcastle players.

The second half could and should have produced more goals, and we could have put the game to bed, which would have eased the tension in the final minutes. But I’d much rather see us create chances and miss them, than not create them at all.

It was one of those games where it was difficult to name a man of the match, as every Sunderland player played their part. There was no weak link and it was a true team performance.

But if pushed, I’d have to give it to Defoe, just ahead of Cattermole, who is so important to Sunderland and who’d have thought we’d pick up five yellow cards, and he wouldn’t be one of them!

One who did see yellow though – and it’s a costly one – is Seb Larsson, who now misses the next two games and will be a big loss against Crystal Palace and Stoke.

Apart from that though, it was as perfect a day as you could get – a day that made you feel proud to be a Sunderland fan.

I was proud of the team, new boss Dick Advocaat and the coaching staff, but most importantly of our magnificent supporters who created a special atmosphere and made the Stadium of Light intimidating and hostile for our neighbours, who for the fifth time in a row never got to grips with the special demands of a derby.