Northumbria Police have announced their plan for derby day on Sunday –  Newcastle v Sunderland in arguably the most important derby match of all time.

Those who were there in 1990 may disagree, when the mackems ended up winning the play-off semi-final at Newcastle’s expense – but certainly the price of failure these days, in terms of relegation, is beyond what any of us would have believed possible 26 years ago.

As usual the police are encouraging as many away fans as possible to use the free buses provided by Sunderland, to minimise the hassle for them on the day.

In recent times Northumbria Police have tried to dilute the confrontational aspect of getting the away fans to the ground, by escorting smaller numbers of Sunderland supporters, rather than one main escort.

Sunday will be a major day of stress for all involved – Newcastle fans, Sunderland fans and of course, those who have to police it.

Northumbria Police official Newcastle v Sunderland statement

‘Northumbria Police has been working with our region’s football clubs to make sure fans can reach the Tyne-Wear derby on time.

Tens of thousands of football fans will fill St James’ Park on Sunday as Newcastle United host Sunderland in a 1.30pm kick-off.

Just under 3,000 of those will be away supporters travelling from across the region and there will be a number of ways for them to get to the game.

But police say changes to the official supporters coaches mean they are the quickest and cheapest way for people to get to St James’ Park.

They have once again been subsidised by Sunderland AFC meaning fans will not have to pay a penny to be dropped off right outside their turnstile.

More than 25 coaches will start boarding at the Stadium of Light at 10.30am but for the first time fans could have the opportunity to be picked up from Sunderland city centre.

Fans travelling from the stadium will be prioritised but any coaches left empty following the 11.15am departure will then travel to Station Street to transport any away fans with a ticket to the game.

The coaches are the quickest mode of transport and at the last Tyne and Wear derby they made it back to the Stadium of Light before the first direct trains had even left the station.

Northumbria Police Operations Commander, Chief Superintendent Steve Neill, said: “This is a fantastic occasion between our region’s two biggest football clubs and we are proud to be a part of it.

“As with any major event in the north east there will be a number of things for fans to consider when deciding how to get to the game but make sure you plan your journey in advance.

“We have worked closely with both football clubs and once again Sunderland AFC have subsidised a number of coaches to get their supporters as quickly and safely as possible.

“It says a lot that at the last derby game in Newcastle the supporters coaches arrived back at the Stadium of Light before the direct trains had even left Central Station.

“We would urge fans to consider this as the best option and contact the club to get a bus pass to allow them to travel from the Stadium of Light prior to the match.

“However, those coaches not filled by fans at the stadium will then enter the city centre to pick up away fans from Station Street.

“Everyone in this region understands the passion of fans of both clubs and our number one priority is that we can help to make following your team as safe and enjoyable as possible.”

The stadium’s Fan Zone will be open from 9am for supporters wishing to soak up the pre-derby atmosphere before boarding the coaches.

The Fan Zone’s bar and food outlets will be open, along with a range of activities including inflatable football games, table football, computer games consoles, music and a museum display featuring derby memorabilia.

Last orders at the bars will be 10.45am and supporters are advised that they will not be permitted to take drinks onto the coaches.

Sunderland AFC’s head of safety, Paul Weir, said: “Without doubt the club’s complimentary bus service affords both the safest and quickest way for our fans to make the journey to and from St James’ Park and we would therefore urge fans to take advantage of this free service wherever possible.

“By opening the Fan Zone in the morning we are aiming to make the whole derby day experience more enjoyable for our supporters so they can have a drink and a bite to eat and soak up the unique matchday atmosphere before boarding the coaches for the journey to St James’ Park.”

Northern Rail will also be providing a direct train service from St Peter’s station in Sunderland to Newcastle Central Station specifically for supporters travelling to the match – this will leave at 11.55am.

There will be direct Metro services for Sunderland supporters on match day. These services will only stop at St Peter’s and Central Station and will leave at 11.58am and 12.06pm.

The escalator from the Metro platform to the main concourse will be out of order on the Sunday however it will remain open as an additional stairwell. Anyone using the Metro should

For the return journey – there are two Metros running direct from Central Station to St Peter’s station. These will be at 4.31pm and 4.46pm. A Northern Rail service will leave Central Station at 4.24pm.

Northumbria Police and the British Transport Police will be present at both stations to assist football fans and anyone else travelling to and from both cities.

Supporters are reminded that parking is limited around St James’ Park and that public transport remains the best way to get to the game.

There are no road closures in place for the football but motorists should still avoid the area of St James’ Park on Sunday as the area will be very busy all day.

Chief Superintendent Neill added: “We will always encourage fans to make use of the official coaches and this game is no different.

“However, we have also listened to fans told us that direct trains were something they would like to retain and we have worked closely with partners to make sure those services are in place.

“Our officers will join those from the British Transport Police at both rail stations to ensure the safety of the public and to deal with anyone intent on causing trouble and disorder.”