Sunderland old boy Caldwell’s got a foot in both camps ahead of Sunday’s clash

Steve Caldwell.
Steve Caldwell.
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FEW players cross the Tyne-Wear divide. It’s not a decision taken lightly, especially in the modern era.

Still, some famous names from the proud histories of Newcastle United and Sunderland have pulled on black and white and red and white in their careers.

Bob Moncur, Bryan “Pop” Robson, Stan Anderson, Lee Clark, Alan Foggon, Andy Cole, Shay Given, Michael Chopra, Barry Venison and Chris Waddle are among the select band to have represented both cubs.

And direct transfers between Newcastle and Sunderland are extremely rare.

The last came nine years ago, when Steve Caldwell, then a young footballer looking for first-team football, realised he would have to leave St James’s Park to further his career.

At the same time, he was identified by Mick McCarthy as a player who could help Sunderland, then in the second tier, win promotion.

As it was, the defender went on to play a big role in the First Division title success of 2004/05.

“I was a little bit apprehensive about making the move,” Caldwell recalled.

“I loved Newcastle, and wanted to stay there, but, over a period of months, I’d decided I had to leave.

“When the opportunity came up, I was a bit reluctant. After speaking to Mick McCarthy, I realised it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

“I thought the side Sunderland were building was good enough to get promoted.

“It was quite smooth. What helped was that the clubs were in different leagues.

“Newcastle fans realised I gave my best to the club.

“I needed to move on to play regularly. It was up to me to prove myself to Sunderland’s fans.

“And I never regretted the move. I’ve got great memories from my time at Sunderland – I had ups and downs, but the promotion season was one of the most enjoyable in my career.”

Caldwell, now captain of Major League Soccer club Toronto, ended up playing in four derbies, two in the colours of each club.

The 33-year-old former Scotland international, born in Stirling, grew up watching Celtic-Rangers games, and he feels the fixture is second only in passion and intensity to Old Firm matches.

“I was lucky enough to play in four derbies – once in each stadium for both sides,” said Caldwell.

“I’m honoured and proud to have done that and played a part in the history between the two clubs.

“They’re great memories, even though not all were successful memories.

“They’re special games. Maybe those players who haven’t played in the derby don’t realise how special it is.

“Maybe I’m biased, but, for me, it’s the biggest derby in England. Being from Scotland, Celtic-Rangers is probably the biggest. I’ve also played in the Burnley-Blackburn derby, which is volatile.”

Caldwell still follows the fortunes of his former clubs from Canada.

Despite the contrasting form of the two teams, he feels the game will be typically tight.

“I watch the Premier League goals here, and I know Sunderland are on a poor run of form,” said Caldwell. “But they have a new manager who will change their style. That takes time.

“Newcastle seem to have picked up. They’ve had some great results, and some iffy ones.

“But form can be irrelevant.

“I’d expect the game to be extremely tight.

“It would be huge for Sunderland if they could win, and Newcastle have got to make sure they don’t give them the opportunity to kick start their season.”