Jack Ross should NOT play strongest team against Newcastle in a novelty tournament as this derby doesn't count

Who are these people who claim to actually like derby matches?

Thursday, 13th December 2018, 10:11 am
Updated Thursday, 13th December 2018, 10:15 am
Jack Ross.

Please don’t misunderstand me. Winning these games is one of life’s more exquisite pleasures. But no one needs to be reminded of what losing feels like.

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Ticket details announced for Checkatrade Trophy derby
Newcastle U21s beat Macclesfield in the last round.

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Even a victory can inflict damage to the digestive system; such is the stress until the final whistle is blown.

One of the meagre consolations of successive relegations is the minimum three-year gap between derbies involving Sunderland. At least eight years will elapse between derby defeats.

Those statistics will be altered if you count the forthcoming Checkatrade Trophy tie: which I’m afraid I don’t.

The home draw against Newcastle is one that neither club, nor the Northumbria constabulary, could possibly have wanted.

Sunderland are favourites to win the tournament outright. They can play a full strength side if they wish, whereas Newcastle must field their under-21s, apart from two overage players.

Nevertheless, even Newcastle’s youngsters are members of a squad that sits two leagues above Sunderland’s. Furthermore, up to now Sunderland have only played what until 2012 would have been called their reserves.

How should Jack Ross approach the game?

There are Sunderland supporters who feel that he should play his strongest possible side, simply because of who the opposition is.

But it isn’t a proper game and any result is neither particularly important, nor likely to be especially memorable. Nor will the result enhance or detract from Sunderland’s fine recent record in derbies. It just doesn’t count.

Not that everyone agrees with me on this.

The game will take place on Tuesday, January 8, three days after a far more important away game at promotion rivals Charlton. The game following the Checkatrade is at home to Luton Town; which is shaping up to be a six-pointer.

So a full strength Sunderland side to face Newcastle? What is full strength? How wholeheartedly would Sunderland’s bigger names perform in the fixture? As much as Newcastle’s youngsters will?

I want Sunderland to win every game they play in. Fans of both Sunderland and Newcastle want to triumph in any type of derby, be it the Champions League or the Checkatrade Trophy.

Or at darts, Buckaroo, custard eating, synchronised swimming, peeing the highest up the wall...

But winning at all costs in a novelty tournament? That’s a bad idea in the long term.