David Preece: Why Sunderland's win over Newcastle was worth cutting-short my Paris trip
If truth be told, this week's offering should have come to you direct from Paris. Just think of the same old rubbish I usually talk about, but with a hat perched on my head at a jaunty angle and an attitude that says '˜I know my French is terrible, but I'm going to inflict it on you anyway'.
I can barely speak English never mind French, but they do say God loves a trier so if that’s the case, I must be one of his favourites after last weekend’s efforts.
I got quite used to the vacant look in the eyes of the people I spoke to as they drifted off halfway through my sentence, cutting me off in English so as to relieve us both of the embarrassment.
The more confident I got though, the more flamboyant my accent became and yet still, I always got the feeling they needed subtitles to understand me and were only ever a whisker away from saying ‘Ahhh, Sunderland ‘Til I die? You’re from Sunderland aren’t you?’. It wouldn’t be a surprise given the show’s popularity.
Not that I’d ever try to disguise my accent, but even in a foreign language it’s still thick. Like a version of Paul Whitehouse’s Julio Geordio from The Fast Show. Or Lionel Perez.
Sadly though, I cut my trip short to go to Tuesday night’s game, forgetting that I had already pleaded with the producers at Talksport to let me cover the game.
I know a lot of people are giving those 3,000 Newcastle fans credit for travelling 11 miles to watch their U21 side, but I flew home from Paris to watch the game, so if it was a competition, I think I win that particular one hands down.
Now, I know that there was a strange attitude towards this game from all angles after the initial interest, which I just couldn’t understand.
Okay, so it wasn’t a Premier League game, but as much as anyone wants to pretend this isn’t a real game, a real derby, then they were badly mistaken.
There’s no use being ignorant to the fact that we are where we are, we are where we deserve to be and that involves taking part in the Checkatrade Trophy playing against U21 sides.
There’s no point feeling we’re somehow better than this, that this competition is beneath us as a club, as fans and as players.
It might not be who we are in two years’ time, maybe three, and Tyne and Wear derbies are ‘proper’ ones again, but as of this very moment, Sunderland v Newcastle U21s is where we are at.
So let’s not kid ourselves this was a nothing game that didn’t matter. It was a game of desperation.
Jack Ross would have been desperate not to lose and Ben Dawson and his side would have been desperate to do what their senior counterparts haven’t been able to do since 2011.
As Jack Ross said in his post-match interview, the league supersedes everything, but don’t tell me he wouldn’t want to lead his side out at Wembley.
I’ve watched on as two of my other former clubs, Barnsley and Lincoln City, triumphed there in this competition and in the case of the Tykes, they were able to use that Wembley success to familiarise themselves with the national stadium before triumphing in the play-off final against Millwall that same year.
At this moment in time, the play-offs as a minimum are a strong possibility and a one-off game win experience would give Sunderland a definite edge over who they were playing.
Of course, I can understand Jack Ross playing down its importance, but imagine if the result hadn’t been the resounding home win for the second string it ended up being.
It wasn’t an outstanding performance by any means and it was by no means the no-win situation everyone was painting it as.
One advantage the kids of Newcastle had over Sunderland was that they have played together more as a side this season.
As a ‘reserves’ cobbled together it can be difficult to form any kind of fluency, but Sunderland should be given credit for taking care of business in the manner they did.
Despite the amount of changes, I liked the clear attacking intent of the side.
That front four of Watmore, Maguire, Sinclair and Wyke had a bit of everything; bags of pace, strength and quality for this level.
But up until the unfortunate own goal from Kelland Watts, the young Newcastle side were disciplined and were clearly hoping to soak up pressure and either hit Sunderland on the break or hang on for penalties.
Two big positives of the night were the performances and continued education of Bali Mumba and Benji Kimpioka. Two players who, despite their age, still looked a step above Newcastle’s youngsters.
Mumba’s composure on the ball is excellent for a player of his age and every time I see Kimpioka I always leave thinking that I’d hate to play up against him as a defender.
He’s still got plenty of learning left to do, but I hope he never loses that directness and menace he has to his game that makes sure defenders will never get an easy ride from him.
As for Newcastle, they will have gained more from that outing than half a dozen games at their usual age group level.
Despite the defeat, the had performances from the likes of Liam Gibson at left back, and promise shown by the likes of Adam Wilson, Callum Roberts and Yannick Toure.
I could go on about the other positives of the game, but I have to draw this to a close now - so to those who classed this match as more exhibition than meaningful, then I’m here to say you were wrong.
This game wasn’t just worth everyone’s time and effort, it was worth coming back from Paris for!