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Opinion

It’s nice to have Sunderland back

1 year ago
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It feels like an awful long time but finally I have Sunderland back in my life.

With everything falling apart at Newcastle United I have really missed them.

It would have been a nice distraction but I’ve got to admit I had totally forgotten about them.

It is actually three and half years since Newcastle last played Sunderland, unless of course you count their official first team game that saw the Mackem first team play NUFC’s kids in the Checkatrade last season.

That game back in March 2016 was actually Rafa’s first ever home match, Newcastle had lost at champions-elect Leicester on the Monday before in the Spaniard’s first ever game and then drew 1-1 on Sunday 20 March 2016 at St James Park. Mitro getting a late headed equaliser.

Since then though absence has made the heart grow fonder…or maybe not.

Anyways, 2016/17 saw Newcastle go up as Sunderland went down and the Wearsiders went down again, then stayed down.

You might say that being two divisions apart you are bound to lose a lot of ‘interest’ in your local rivals but last season we had the Checkatrade thing to laugh about and then of course the play-off final in May was another classic, nice distractions from what wasn’t a great Newcastle season.

We have seen worse and did stay up in 2018/19 but a fair amount of tedious games until late in season, plus we were very accepting of the situation Rafa was in, the big interest being that if we did stay up then surely after two years of austerity Rafa Benitez would at last be properly backed and convinced to extend his stay.

We all know what the reality was instead.

To be honest it has been all downhill as a Newcastle fan since we beat Fulham 4-0 on the final day of last season.

In normal times, more often than not we would have the distraction of ‘banter’ with our Mackem friends.

However, instead there has been nothing, us totally wrapped up in our Mike Ashley misery and Sunderland so far away in terms of leagues that I ended up just not even thinking about them. Plus, with them having their worst ever season in 2018/19, staying in the third tier, it appears they had accepted that it would be far too embarrassing to be laughing at our misery when they are so rubbish.

I must admit that I didn’t have a clue how they had  been doing this season or who they were/are playing.

It turns out they are having a very similar season to the last one, only having won four of their nine League One games and behind Ipswich, Coventry, Wycombe and Joey Barton’s Fleetwood in the table.

They have MK Dons at home next, Lincoln away, then Grimsby in the Checkatrade (it has got a new sponsor but that this sounds better. It cheered me up just seeing those fixtures.

I was actually first alerted to Sunderland again at the start of this week, I had to do some messages and was out in the car one late afternoon and had on the tragic phone-in on Radio Newcastle. I nearly crashed the car when they were seriously debating whether Sunderland could pull off a second ‘giant killing’ of the season on Wednesday night.

It turns out they beat ‘giants’ Burnley in the last round and then they got a 1-0 at Sheffield United last night, scoring with one of their two shots on target.

After that result I got texts from a few mackem associates I hadn’t heard from for ages, taunting me.

I quite enjoyed it, it at least made me stop pondering for a while what stupidity Steve Bruce will be up to this coming weekend.

With the Mackems drawing Oxford at home in the next round, they actually now have a great chance of making the last eight in the League Cup.

Bring it on is what I say, I’ll get plenty of interaction with the mackems I know, especially when I wind them up.

I never thought I’d miss the local rivalry stuff with them and I don’t think I would if we were ran on normal lines and showed a bit of ambition. However, when Ashley runs NUFC like this, I do think it is a plus to have the mackems to argue with, rather than them being such a non-event being so far down.

A few of their braver souls are now talking about playing Newcastle in the league next season, seemingly inspired by their ‘heroics’ in the cup last night.

So welcome back Sunderland, I have kind of missed you.

I think these past few months where I had stopped caring and even forgotten about them, must be what it is like being a Middlesbrough fan all of the time, a club with no local rival and a club nobody else cares about.

I can’t say I’m desperate for the local derbies to kick off again but a bit of banter with the mackems would be welcomed in these troubled times and I have promised myself I will start and look out for their scores once again.

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