FORMER Sunderland star Jody Craddock has urged Gus Poyet’s men to hold their nerve at St James’s Park tomorrow – even if they go a goal behind.
And Craddock says it is absolutely vital Sunderland have the will to battle all the way to the final whistle on Tyneside in search of the right result.
The 38-year-old, a player at the Stadium of Light from 1997-2003 before being sold to Wolves, is on Wearside this evening for a charity night with former team-mates at the Corner Flag pub.
And tomorrow he will travel, along with Sunderland fans, on a coach to St James’s hoping to cheer on the lads and see them emulate the heroics of his side in 2000 when the Magpies were beaten 2-1 by the Red and Whites for the second season in a row.
Craddock told the Echo: “That’s one of my best Sunderland memories of all, and everyone still talks about Thomas Sorensen’s save from Alan Shearer right at the death.
“But the game actually didn’t start that well for us – we went behind just five minutes into the match – and we had to show character and nerve to get back into it.
“That’s what I think is important tomorrow.
“Sunderland have to hold their nerve because it’s a very intense and intimidating atmosphere and even if they do go behind they have got to fight to stay in it.
“Not only that, they have to battle all the way to the end, like we did that game – we came from 1-0 down to win 2-1 and Thomas’s save from Shearer was the icing on the cake.”
The ex-Black Cat is looking forward to being in the away end tomorrow and he says he’s quietly confident that Poyet’s resurgent team can do Wearside proud.
“I think everyone agrees the manager has done a fantastic job,” he said.
“To come back from being adrift at the bottom and get out of the bottom three is superb and it’s not a fluke either – it can’t be over that length of time.
“He’s got them organised, he’s got them playing in a system and you can see that there is determination and purpose in the side.
“You can never predict a derby, but I don’t see Sunderland wilting.
“I think they’ll be up for it and I’m hoping for a cracking game – personally, I’d love another 2-1 win for Sunderland and the way Vito Mannone has been playing you would back him to save a penalty too!”
A few tickets still remain for tonight’s exclusive and intimate charity night, with proceeds going to a hospital fund which helps children suffering from leukaemia.
The guest of honour said: “It’s a charity which is close to my heart because my young son, Toby, was diagnosed with leukaemia a couple of years ago and received fantastic treatment on the ward that is involved.”
Among the former Sunderland men looking to attend the night are Bobby Saxton, Darren Holloway, Darren Williams, Gavin McCann, John Oster, Martin Smith and Michael Proctor.
Doors open at 7pm this evening and there will be a five-course meal, a raffle of signed SAFC items as well as some prints of Jody’s works.
The Corner Flag Pub is at 278-284 High Street West and last-minute bookings are available on 0191 4476608.
* Don’t miss tomorrow’s derby special Football Echo – it’s online from around 7pm with the biggest and best coverage of the big day