Almost every time Sunderland have faced Newcastle over the last few years it’s been labelled “the biggest derby in years.” This time it really is.
For most fans, it’s been the last thing we think of when we go to sleep and the first thing we think of when we wake up.
You shouldn’t be having those thoughts over a game of football. You should be having them for the people you love, people like Fabio Borini.
Why is it that I hold Fabio in such high regard? His goal at Wembley is certainly part of it but, if i’m being honest, it’s mainly for when he laughed at Tim Krul and then stood on the advertising hoardings in front of the Newcastle supporters. Borini did the kind of hand gesture invoking celebration that most Sunderland supporters dream of doing at St James Park, cementing his place in Sunderland’s derby folklore alongside Thomas Sorenson, Kieran Richardson and Gary Rowell.
If there was ever time Sunderland needed another name to add to that list, it would be this Sunday. We’re all aware of the added importance this particular game against our neighbours has, if either side is to win then they’ll take a huge step towards survival.
Even just typing that sentence makes my stomach turn. I hate the derby build up at the best of times, so on this occasion it is almost unbearable.
I’ve tried to just think of the game logically. Newcastle have a poor defence and we’ve looked good going forward lately. Our midfield is starting to look tidy thanks to Jan Kichhoff and the return to form of Yann M’Vila, with Sam Allardyce even facing a selection headache as he decides whether or not to put derby day specialist Lee Cattermole back into the starting line up.
In defence, we may still be looking for that elusive clean sheet, but John O’Shea and Lamine Kone have looked a decent partnership and you feel like a game where we don’t concede is just around the corner. There’s of course reason to be fearful of the likes of Gini Wijnaldum and Ayoze Perez but that’s the kind of problem you’re always going to face at Premier League level.
That’s too logical though. Football fandom, especially when it comes to games like this, absolutely defies logic – as David Vaughan scoring one of the greatest goals i’ve ever seen in this fixture show.
I’m actually worried about Newcastle following Sunderland’s pattern of sacking their manager, the new boss losing his first game and then winning the derby in the second game. By the same token though, I wrote the Wise Men Say column before the last game against Newcastle so I’m taking that as some kind of good omen. I know that it’s ridiculous but I know i’m not alone in these irrational fears and superstitions.
It’s hard to predict what kind of game we’ll witness on Sunday, after we make our way up the thousands of steps to the away end. We have been spoiled when it comes to derby day joy recently and if we avoid defeat then it will mean we are set to have been undefeated against Newcastle in five years.
We may sound spoiled by wishing for a further win but this one could be the most important. Time to be heroes again lads.