GARY Bennett insists Sunderland’s biggest defeat of the season at the weekend will have no bearing on how they perform against Newcastle United at the Sports Direct Arena on Sunday.
The former Black Cats skipper (pictured) and current radio summariser watched Martin O’Neill’s men fail to launch on Saturday, as they slumped to a comprehensive 4-0 defeat at the Hawthorns.
But he says fans shouldn’t fear that the loss marks the beginning of a slump for Sunderland ahead of the derby.
“The defeat wasn’t ideal preparation but it will be irrelevant as far as the derby is concerned,” he said.
“Losing 4-0 the week beforehand isn’t great. But then drawing a game 2-2 when you’re 2-0 up at home against a team that’s one of the favourites for relegation isn’t brilliant either – and that’s what happened to Newcastle at the Sports Direct at the weekend.
“None of that matters this week though, it’s all about how you handle the pressure on the day.”
Bennett pointed out that even if Sunderland’s great run under Martin O’Neill had continued with a win over West Brom, it still wouldn’t have counted for much. “It’s nice to be in good form going into a derby but I think if you look at the derby game this season at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland went into it on a high after a good close season, Newcastle on a low, but it made no difference on the day – Newcastle won 1-0 and Steve Bruce was in trouble all of a sudden.
“If you cast your mind back to the 5-1 defeat last season, Sunderland had been going great guns and fans on both sides were predicting they would win it but they played terribly and lost horribly.
“If you look at it closely, all you’re reminded of is that these games are a one off.
“You plan and prepare as best you can but it all comes down to how things work out on day, and no-one ever knows that for certain.
“Look at the Arsenal v Spurs derby yesterday.
“Arsenal went into the game having pretty much gone out of two cups in one week, Roy Keane’s describing them as the worst Arsenal team he’s ever seen and questions are being asked about Wenger’s future if they lose to Spurs at the weekend.
“Spurs go 2-0 up at the Emirates and the game is going according to the form book because Spurs have been excellent this season and then all of a sudden: ‘Bang!” – Bacary Sagna heads one back, Robin van Persie scores a ‘worldy’ and Arsenal go on to win 5-2 and give their fans one of their best days in years.
“You just can’t second-guess what’s going to happen in a derby – but that’s one of the attractions of them.
“They mean so much, that strange things can happen in them and the only thing you can predict about them with any certainty is that they’re usually unpredictable.”