CHRIS Waddle says only a fool would try predicting the outcome of Sunday’s Wear-Tyne derby – and he’s no fool.
The former England international has been back in his native North East as part of the Barclays Spaces for Sports initiative, holding a coaching session with kids at the Washington Millenium Centre and thoroughly enjoying the buzz of the build-up to tomorrow’s game.
And the only thing he was predicting about the game was its unpredictability.
“I’m not sitting on the fence,” he insisted. “It’s just that anything can happen.
“Look at the meeting earlier in the season at St James’s Park. Who saw that coming?
“Before the game I was thinking Sunderland had a good chance, they’d been going well in the league, they’d been solid in defence, had a decent midfield and had goals in them.
“Newcastle had been doing well too, but were still freshly back up from the Championship and I thought Sunderland might edge it. Then bang – 5-1!
“And that’s what the derby is all about.
“It’s a game you can’t predict because that old cliché of form going out of the window in this fixture is so often true.
“On the face of it, no one would have been surprised if Sunderland had won that game earlier in the season, but Sunderland’s young players in particular just froze on the day and that’s what cost them.
“By the time they’d recovered themselves and got themselves going, it was too late. The momentum was with Newcastle and every time they put the ball into the Sunderland box it looked like it might go in.”
Waddle watched that match on television and similarly tomorrow, he won’t be at the game in person.
“I’ve got match commentary for ESPN in London,” he said. “But I’m still very interested in the result because it’s such a big derby and it means so much to the people of the North East.”
He says there’s something special for a player to be involved in any derby game.
“We in the North East are a bit obsessed with the derby and I suppose that’s naturally so – when the fixture lists come out, we might scan for Liverpool and Manchester United, but the derby games are the first fixtures everyone looks for.
“We shouldn’t kid ourselves that we’re unique.
“It’s the same as any derby, in the sense of wanting to beat your local rivals.”
Read the full interview, including Waddle’s memories of his own Tyne-Wear derby battle, in tonight’s Sunderland Echo.