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Opinion

Newcastle United, Sunderland, and a history lesson…

1 year ago
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Sunderland are plummeting.  It’s been coming for a long time and I’m loving it.

I like to think that I’m not one to take gleeful delight in the misfortune of others…but when it comes to the football results of a rival club, you can make an exception. That is as far as I go in breaking that rule.

I am the Mackem-obsessed Newcastle supporter who previously built a stats spreadsheet comparing the match and goal stats of Newcastle United and Sunderland from years gone by.  I did this out of curiosity and a “need” to see just how bad  (or good)  things are for either of our clubs.

I looked at the comparative stats for our Championship seasons, Premier League seasons and throughout our entire club histories.

It’s only then that I truly realised how good a history Sunderland actually has. They were different times of course but you can see why they were seen historically as one of the big names of English football.  That might be hard to swallow for some and I hope I haven’t lost you at this point…  but when you consider this fact, you can then see how far they’ve actually fallen.

I wrote back then that my obsession with the stats grew on a Monday night in September 2016 when the mackems contrived to lose a home match to a quickfire Romelu Lukaku hat-trick. An amusing and very familiar feeling. Over the years the Stadium of Light, barring the odd good day here and there, has not been a happy place for them by and large.

But really it was before then.  In November 2011, Sunderland lost 2-1 at home to Wigan Athletic and various things about that time are imprinted in my mind.  Things such as the result leaving them perilously close to the relegation zone, the ease of which Di Santo scored the second goal.. the commentary of long-suffering BBC Newcastle commentator Nick Barnes and the jeers of the crowd.  It was Steve Bruce’s last game as Sunderland manager and the moment I realised I was actually enjoying their downfall and wanted them to go down.

This was all before the whole “6 in a row” thing as well.  It wasn’t even about being sick of the mackems having the derby bragging rights.  It was just a moment something switched on in my brain.  A Sunderland defeat became almost as good a feeling as a Newcastle win. As Newcastle supporters, we don’t want to see times when Sunderland are doing better than us, so the more they are losing, the better!

So yes, I’m a bad man and I’m going to hell 🙂

Will I miss the derbies?

Well apart from the fact that the clubs could easily meet again in a domestic cup competition, like the Checkatrade Trophy for example, we have to temper our amusement with the thought that this could easily be us one day under Mike Ashley’s ownership.  And frankly after six In a row, I’m ready for a break from them.

They can have their six in a row for as long as necessary.

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The fact is though that our clubs are going in very different directions. I mentioned before that Sunderland have a very good history in English football. However, in my lifetime, they have never amounted to anything more than 7th place at the top level, have never competed in the big European competitions and, like us, haven’t won a major trophy.

We have our own shortcomings there but I’m going to make a very bold prediction.

I’m 35 years old in July and for as long as I live I don’t really see them beating 7th at the top level. Or doing anything of note, the likes that the top level clubs do. Seventh is their highest premier league finish and is, therefore, my yardstick. It is quite possible they may never play Premier League football ever again. That is a bold prediction I know, and a touch provocative and probably wide of the mark, but this is my hunch.

However, I just don’t see the club in its current state and the current level of investment getting back to the Premier League in the next five years.  We don’t really know what is ahead for them.

The Ellis Short regime will end one day, but let’s assume they do get back in the minimum two years, the Premier League clubs (hopefully Newcastle included) will all have strengthened and will be operating at an even higher level than they are now.

It’s going to take a gargantuan amount of investment to make even so much as a timid knock on the door for them to get into that group.

Our chances are not much better but at least we’re where we want to be [at the minute] and feel we should be.

That is why after this weekend I am immensely happy at both our clubs’ fortunes and that’s why I’m a bad man, probably on my way to hell for my gleeful delight 🙂
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