Straight off the bat, let us just get one thing out of the way: Sunderland v Middlesbrough isn’t a derby.
You can only have one true derby rival and I’m afraid the Wear-Tees derby has about as much of a ring to it as a square.
Liverpool have Everton, Manchester United have City, and we have Newcastle United.
I don’t make the rules, I just apply them, and if you must throw multiple London clubs at me simply because they are all situated in the capital then you’re wrong.
This doesn’t necessarily mean the two teams have to be from the same city, but if it takes you more than 30 minutes to drive to your “rivals” then it isn’t a derby.
Another good test of a real derby is by imagining conceding a goal to the opposition and making yourself a cup of tea at the same time.
If you’ve managed not to smash the mug off the wall as you think of the ball being banged past your goalkeeper then it isn’t a derby.
There might be some Middlesbrough fans who want desperately to be part of something bigger than a game at Victoria Park, Hartlepool, but with it being 24 miles closer than Sunderland is, I’m afraid that’s your derby right there.
Not exactly Boca Juniors v River Plate and, rather depressingly, they have only ever met each other on two occasions, a two-legged League Cup affair back in 1986. Perhaps the rarest derby of all.
This isn’t an intentional diss to our Teesside friends you understand.
After all, Boro were my first professional club that I played for on a regular basis when I was 13. I even went to the Zenith Data Systems Cup Final against Chelsea, but this is an itch I needed to scratch from way back when Roger Tames would give the highlights package of the match a big-game build-up that I never felt it really deserved.
I mean, take a moment to think of your favourite Wear/Tees derby moment?
No, me neither.
Nothing of the same magnitude as Hardyman’s boot and John Burridge’s head, Thomas Sorensen’s penalty save or Gary Rowell’s exploits, that’s for sure.
If we must call it a derby though, could we at least name it in honour of a celebrated player who has appeared for both clubs, like Mark Proctor for example.
Yes, that’s it. If we are to dress it up as a derby game, we might as well stick a big curly wig on it too and call it the Mark Proctor derby.