MARTIN Smith believes the North East derby may have come at the perfect time for stricken Sunderland.
Wearside has been in the doldrums this week after a sixth successive Premier League defeat at Swansea left Sunderland’s hopes of avoiding the drop look even more insurmountable.
But ex-Sunderland winger Smith says the unique environment of facing Newcastle could help Gus Poyet’s side to forget their relegation worries.
That proved to be the case in April when Sunderland secured a famous 3-0 victory at St James’s Park and laid the foundations for their successful survival campaign.
“It’s possibly one of the best games you could have because you know the fans are going to be right behind you from the start,” Smith told the Echo.
“As long as the team put the effort in, the fans will stay with them.
“Obviously, it wasn’t the ideal start for Gus Poyet last week, but you’ve got to move on.
“If you get three points on Sunday, you can look forward.
“At the minute, it’s hard to see where the next win is coming from.
“But we’ve got to win sooner, rather than later, and a home game against Newcastle would be ideal.
“It could just start the season off.
“It can definitely give you a bounce and we probably went into the derby last year in a similar sort of mood.
“No-one thought we were going to get anything so hopefully lightning can strike twice.”
Smith says the 4-0 rout at Swansea will have given Poyet plenty of food for thought over the situation he has inherited from Paolo Di Canio.
And with confidence at a low ebb, Sunderland-born Smith says it is important that the Black Cats get their noses in front against the Magpies.
“He’ll have learned that confidence is not great after losing the first goal,” he added.
“Possibly, the quality is not shining through either, which points to the confidence too.
“The first goal is going to be massive on Sunday.”
* Smith was speaking at Durham’s Ramside Hall after representing Sunderland in the derby charity golf tournament against a Newcastle side.
Proceeds from the event went towards the Sunderland Foundation of Light and the Newcastle United Foundation.