‘Just another game, not a derby of the city’ – Ruud Gullit.

Poor Ruud just didn’t get it, he thought because Newcastle and Sunderland fans lived in separate cities we didn’t mix as much as say the fans of the Milan or Manchester teams, so it potentially didn’t mean as much to us.

Try telling that to either set of supporters. I live in Wallsend, work in Newcastle city centre and I bump into my fair share of mackems.

Me personally, I love and hate the derby games in equal measure. As a supporter you go through the mill, one minute confidence in getting a result is high, you dare to utter words to that effect and then boom you’re swallowed up by the dread of worst case scenario events.

It’s difficult to maintain any kind of perspective with any football match involving your team but it is 100 times harder to do so when it comes to the derby, as the mackems latest rabble become more like Brazil 1970 the closer the day gets. No matter how far you get carried away there’s nothing like a large dose of blind faith to maintain a level of calm though, ‘wey-aye man we’ll stuff these, they’re sh*te’.

In this fixture the result last time out stays with you until the next. Personally I’ve never bought into the ‘North East Top Dog’ malarkey, based on recent history the phrase ‘two bald men fighting over a comb’ springs to mind. The all time record is so close in terms of wins; neither team has ever really pulled away which certainly adds to the rivalry.

To the day itself, everyone remembers their first derby game. Mine was a sopping wet St James Park on 25th April 1993 when ‘salty’ Sellars scored a peach of free kick (photo below), wrong footing Tony Norman at the Leazes End. I seem to remember Terry Butcher making a right prat of himself too, there usually is a villain in this fixture.

The fixture has made heroes of many players in the past, Peter Beardsley & Kevin Nolan’s hat tricks, Ryan Taylor & Liam O’Brien’s free kicks, Shola’s goals etc. It has seen the birth of many a terrace song, ‘celebrity fan’, ‘over the wall’, ‘any O’Brien’ et al. Score the winner in the derby and all previous indiscretions are immediately forgiven, all future shortcomings overlooked.

It’s always an early rise, up at the crack of dawn like a kid at Christmas, a good breakfast in you before setting off towards the cathedral on the hill, saluting magpies as if your life depended on it all the way in. No matter how much you deny them, drink them away, nerves and adrenaline remain in your stomach until the final whistle.

newcastle v sunderland

The beer fuelled atmosphere generated is almost palpable; throw in the fact that this season’s result could potentially decide either team’s fate just adds further needle. I hoped that the reverse fixture last October might’ve kick started our season, but this one, this one could just be the vital three points needed in our survival effort.

“I just hope it’s a good game” – said no one ever!

To paraphrase Sir Bobby Robson, I see this game as the most important fixture of the season. You get the same number of points buts it’s much more than just 3 points. It’s everything to the public in the area; it’s the result of the region.

The importance of this fixture commences when you’re born. I was born into a Newcastle United family my dad, his granda, my uncles and my granda are and were all Newcastle United daft, as will my son be.

It’s not like you get a choice, it was never considered to go and watch Sunderland; don’t like them, always laugh when they lose that’s how it is, that’s the way I was brought up. There’s only one team, you can’t support two clubs in this area and in football the only love that you have is crucial to your life.

Howay me bonny lads!!!

You can follow the author on Twitter @lyon1892

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