Just over 15 years ago, on the 22 December 2001, Newcastle v Leeds meant the winners of the game would be top of the Premier League at Christmas.
As anybody with a few years on the clock with tell you, Sir Bobby Robson’s team followed up a midweek 3-1 victory at Arsenal by winning 4-3 at Elland Road and life was very sweet that Xmas.
Moving back to the present day and you could say arguably that this upcoming game on Friday night is even more important than that one back in the day.
Yes both clubs still harboured ambitions of realistically winning the Premier League back in 2001/02 but the consequences of staying in the Championship for the 2017/18 season, would be all but disastrous for either/both clubs.
Whilst with five games to go Newcastle are hot favourites to gain automatic promotion and Leeds the same with making the play-offs, a win would go a long way to cement either.
Whether or not Leeds make the play-offs, failure to get promotion would surely be catastrophic. They haven’t come so close for some years and would surely see star players once again stolen away if remaining in the Championship. Meanwhile Garry Monk has more than rehabilitated himself after his Swansea experience and would surely be picked up by another Premier League club in the near future, if Leeds don’t make it.
As for Newcastle, whilst promotion does look much more assured, you do have to wonder what the repercussions would be if losing out on a Premier League place. Rafa Benitez would be sure to get offers elsewhere and after he wasn’t backed in January’s transfer market, staying in the second tier would be no guarantee of significant funds to spend on another promotion push. Plus of course potentially losing the odd player who had gambled on Newcastle spending no more than 46 games in the Championship.
The truth of course is that the Premier League needs both Newcastle and Leeds, the simple fact is that games between the big name clubs are what drives both cash and the adrenaline.
You do wonder just how long-term the health of the Premier League is, when trying to sell Bournemouth, Swansea, Hull and West Brom around the World?
Plus of course if/when Newcastle are confirmed as promoted, it would be nice to have at least one ‘derby’ match that wasn’t more than 90 miles away…