WEB EXCLUSIVE: Gary Rowell on Sunderland’s chances at Newcastle

Gary Rowell, former Sunderland player and now Echo columnist
Gary Rowell, former Sunderland player and now Echo columnist
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I’M looking forward to the derby game already and that feeling is only going to intensify as the week progresses.

This is the big one and probably the best word to describe it is one I used in that last sentence: intense.

The big games against the biggest clubs are big events. Playing against the likes of the Manchester Uniteds, Arsenals and Liverpools are massive matches.

But there’s nothing quite like the derby against Newcastle.

To play in them is a privilege but it is rarely a pleasure because of the pressure that goes with it. But I would say to the players that they should look forward to it and relish it.

They have to be aware of its importance beforehand and because of that they have to ensure they’re prepared so they can give their very best on the day.

The thing about the derby is simply this: there’s no better game in football to win. And there’s no worse one to lose.

ONE of the biggest of Martin O’Neill’s many challenges this week will simply be to ensure his players perform to their full potential this Sunday.

Since Newcastle were promoted, the Black Cats have simply failed to perform in the three derbies they have played.

Sunderland have just disappeared on the day and for anyone who supports the club these recent games have been horrible, horrible affairs.

The 1-0 defeat at our place at the start of the season after a first half we completely dominated, really derailed us. Last season the 1-1 draw at the Stadium of Light with Asamoah Gyan’s last-gasp equaliser was a point we didn’t deserve. And the 5-1 defeat at their place last season still brings me out in a cold sweat.

Sunderland have probably gone into this fixture in the last three games as either slight or firm favourites, yet they haven’t done themselves justice. Win, lose or draw, they have to do produce their best form this weekend.