I’VE SEEN some derbies come and go in my time but I was as nervous going into this one as any of them.
As things turned out, I shouldn’t have been, because our win was emphatic and thoroughly deserved.
I’m always by nature optimistic when it comes to my club but even I never saw a 3-0 victory coming.
Before the game, I would have settled for a draw, as I thought a point would have been a good one for us to build on.
So such a convincing and morale-boosting victory as this was beyond my wildest dreams.
Paolo Di Canio couldn’t have done any more to make himself an instant Sunderland hero.
And remember this was a patched-up Sunderland team that he had to work with and to make function.
With no Cattermole, Fletcher, Wickham or Gardner, and Cuellar and Bardsley looking far from 100 per cent, it meant everybody physically able was asked to do a job.
And they did that superbly.
I said in last week’s column that the players needed to respect this great derby fixture, recognise the magnitude it holds for the fans and give absolutely everything they have.
Well they did exactly that, and then more.
Much, much more!
This was a true team performance and not one player let his manager down as they played with the spirit and passion that the fans demand.
There will be knocks and bruises I’m sure, after a game which is never for the faint-hearted.
But the players will recognise it was all worth it as the rewards are so great in terms of morale for the fans.
And they will also know they won’t have many better days in football than beating Newcastle in their own back yard.
For all the spirit and effort the team put in, it would be wrong to say that was all that won us the game because we also played some really good football and we were set up well, tactically, and the game plan worked to perfection.
The goals of course are always the highlight and what beauties they were – three absolute classics – and it’s difficult to say which one was the best.
Maybe David Vaughan’s from my point of view, as I was sat right behind the line of the shot as it rocketed towards the top corner, moving just enough in its flight to sneak inside the post.
That goal being the third, meant the game was won, as at 1-0 or even 2-0, you know one slip and the opposition are back in it.
But when the third went in, it was game over and only then can you relax.
So the bar is set for Sunderland now.
Too often we have followed a good result with two or three bad ones, so we need to find consistency as we’ve still got huge games to come.
At times, Sunderland stretch the patience of supporters to breaking point, but then they produce a result like Sundays to give everybody a huge lift.
And I have no doubt that a lot of fans will have fallen in love with their club all over again after Sunday’s delight.
To read the rest of the Rowell Report, please see tonight’s Sunderland Echo.