I’VE been asked many times what it was like to play in a derby game.
The answer usually depends upon the result. In fact, no – it always depends upon the result!
This game is always viewed through a magnifying glass with wins celebrated wildly and defeats almost too hard to bear.
In 10 or 20 years time, when fans are discussing Paolo Di Canio’s brief reign on Wearside, what will be the one thing everyone remembers?
Yes, his knee-sliding celebration in a 3-0 derby victory.
The image will be as fresh as it is today and the match will be remembered with enthusiasm and absolute clarity.
These games are always the most important of the season for the fans and hopefully the players have grasped just what it means.
The make up of the dressing room is completely different to when I was playing, when there were very few foreign players around. Nowadays, the dressing room is made up of players from all over the world, but they all need to know and be made aware of just how important the derby game against Newcastle is.
A goal, a great performance or a penalty save will be remembered through the decades and talked about long after the players have gone and hung up their boots.
One of my great memories of playing Newcastle at home was in 1980 when Stan Cummins scored the goal in a 1-0 victory.
It wasn’t the greatest of games, but that didn’t matter and I can still recall clearly Stan’s goal as I was directly behind him as he smashed the ball in the Newcastle net.
Stan was razor-sharp and when his chance came, I knew before he hit it where the ball was going to end up and his goal was the difference between the two teams on the day.
The adrenalin rush as we celebrated in front of the Fulwell End was like an electric charge going through your entire body and the noise and jubilation that followed was just something you don’t forget.