Why it may play into Sunderland’s hands having to go to Tyneside for latest derby

Sunderland's Billy Jones celebrates his goal in the derby at the Stadium of Light back in October last year.
Sunderland's Billy Jones celebrates his goal in the derby at the Stadium of Light back in October last year.
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One win could change everything. Just imagine it: I’m sure you already have.

That moment floating away from St James’s Park on Sunday afternoon, knowing not only that your team has just inflicted a seventh straight derby defeat on your fiercest rivals, but that you have also taken a giant stride towards Premier League safety.

David Jones

David Jones

It could be one of THE great days and of course it could be one of the worst.

Somehow every time we play Newcastle it feels like a climactic game, perhaps that’s just the nature of the passion and pride swirling around our clubs, or it could be because life for us has always been precarious in recent seasons, but none of the recent meetings have been bigger than this.

There’s no doubt whoever comes out on top will have inflicted major damage on their rival: major but not irreparable.

The important thing to remember is that after Sunday there are still 24 points to play for in the season including a game at Norwich, which is equally significant, if lacking the local drama.

Win or lose, and actually a draw wouldn’t be the worst result, and there will still be work to be done.

Clearly, Newcastle have given themselves a fighting chance by changing their manager and appointing Rafa Bentitez.

Sometimes you can just sense the players aren’t with a manager and so it seemed for Steve McClaren.

I’m pretty sure Newcastle will have seen Sunderland roll the dice at this stage, season after season, and thought it was time they gambled too.

Gambling is not really in the nature of their new manager; Benitez has built a reputation across Europe creating compact teams who put a real value on defensive shape and organisation.

But the situation demands more, just as it does for Sunderland, Newcastle will have to take chances to survive.

Which is why it might just play into our hands having to go to Tyneside on Sunday.

Newcastle under Benitez will be more controlled, just as they were at Leicester on Monday, but at home they will try and use their crowd in the early stages, they’d be crazy not to, and the longer the game goes without a goal the more chance Sunderland have of stealing another derby victory.

Get through the opening exchanges, let the early passion burn out and you will be able to sense the fear from the stands: the fear of losing to Sunderland again, the fear of dropping points, the fear of relegation.

They will start to take chances, leave more gaps at the back in their desperation to beat us and that’s when Sunderland can strike.

It’s a game of patience for Sam Allarydce and his team, who cannot afford to concede first: it will take diligence, discipline and a moment of inspiration.

Meanwhile, we’re all hoping for an inspiring choice to succeed Margaret Byrne as the club’s chief executive.

We don’t know what Ellis Short wants from the role, but those being linked in these pages tend to possess footballing CVs which makes me wonder if that was his priority, why not make the change sooner?

Perhaps it signals a change of structure with the disappearance of the director of football role which has served Sunderland ill.

But look at other clubs who have performed well in the Premier League: Bournemouth have a CEO who runs the business and leaves football to others, it’s the same at Arsenal; Crystal Palace, Spurs, West Ham and Swansea all have owners imbedded in the game making football decisions.

There is no right answer, it just requires commitment to a model that everyone at the club buys into and world class people to make it work.