It is an appalling fact that Newcastle United have almost single-handedly kept Sunderland in the Premier League these past three years.

The 2012/13 season saw our Wearside friends finish three points above the drop thanks to the four points donated by Newcastle United.

Then 2013/14 saw NUFC growing in generosity, gifting six points to the mackems, who finished five points above the relegation zone.

Last season, 2014/15, the red and whites were safe by three points, courtesy of six points from the black and whites.

This has to end. Now.

As they say, charity begins at home.

It is a sobering fact that if Newcastle had made use of that all dominant first half at the Stadium of Light back in October 2015 and/or Coloccini hadn’t been wrongly sent off, United would now be five points clear of Sunderland and two ahead of Norwich, though it would also pretty much have made certain that we were still saddled with Steve McClaren…

Anybody of a certain age has lived through a great period of black and white dominance in the north east derby over the past ten, twenty, thirty years – until these past few years.

The saddest aspect of this six match losing streak is that Sunderland have been hopeless throughout, it hasn’t been quality that has done for Newcastle, it has been a lack of character on and off the pitch. Helping Sunderland survive and ensuring Newcastle were a perpetually failing club.

Rafa Benitez is capable of changing that, IF Newcastle can get through these next two months with no fatal damage.

Thanks to the stupidity of those running Newcastle United, Rafa doesn’t have the luxury of a honeymoon period, instead pitched straight in with only 10 games to save the season/club’s immediate and possibly medium/long-term future as well.

The opener against league leaders Leicester was always going to be tough, now it gets even tougher as Newcastle face the biggest two games that remain, relegation rivals Sunderland and Norwich.

Leadership has been stripped out of the club in recent years and Rafa Benitez can’t change that overnight, though Monday night at the King Power gave glimpses that he may be able to get significantly more out of these players than Steve McClaren ever did.

This Sunday is simple; Newcastle have to outplay, outfight, outmuscle, outmanoeuvre and outlast Sunderland.

Those in black and white have to embrace the occasion instead of fearing it, revel in the chance to be able to put right so much of what has gone wrong this season and before.

The opportunity is there, they just have to want it more than Sunderland.