CHRIS Waddle’s experience of Wear-Tyne derbies on either side of the divide was limited to a solitary outing.
But by the time the former England winger lined up for Sunderland at St James’s Park in April, 1997, Waddle had amassed more than 400 top flight appearances.
Waddle was rich with “big game experience” from World Cups, European Championships and domestic cup finals, even if the then 36-year-old savoured the fierce atmosphere of a derby for the first time.
The ESPN pundit believes Sunderland summer signings Wes Brown, Craig Gardner Seb Larsson and John O’Shea – if the defender recovers from a hamstring strain – will be similarly undaunted on Saturday after playing in Manchester and Birmingham derbies.
But Waddle raised a question mark over whether Newcastle’s legion of French new boys – Yohan Cabaye, Gabriel Obertan and Sylvain Marveaux – will be similarly equipped.
Waddle told the Echo: “Newcastle have lost (Kevin) Nolan and (Joey) Barton looks like he could still be on his way.
“The big influential figures are not there now and that will be a big loss to them.
“Alan Pardew has signed a couple of French lads who might find it a bit strange to run out in front of 40,000 screaming Sunderland fans. It will be interesting to see how they handle it.
“The experience of Wes Brown and John O’Shea will be very important.
“Wes Brown and John O’Shea are very experienced players, who have been involved in the Champions League and international football.
“They have been at the top, know how to handle pressure and should be a good example.
“When you are signing players of that calibre, it gives everyone at the club a lift.”
* Full story in tonight’s Sunderland Echo