In 5 days Newcastle and Sunderland from favourites to play each other to 2 divisions still apart
It is now over five years and counting since we last saw a Newcastle United v Sunderland derby match.
The 20 March 2016 seeing Rafa Benitez take charge of his second match, his first at St James Park, a late Mitrovic goal giving the Magpies a point in a 1-1 draw.
In the 26 months following that last derby match, there were four promotions or relegations shared between Newcastle and Sunderland.
The Mags relegated from the Premier League in May 2016, only to bounce back as Championship champions in May 2017.
Whilst Sunderland outdid their local rivals in terms of drama – a bottom of the Premier League finish in May 2017, followed by a bottom of the Championship in May 2018.
Mike Ashley has continued his madness with the running of Newcastle United, though despite that three comfortable mid-table finishes.
Whilst for Sunderland, a fifth place finish and failure in the League One play-offs in 2018/19, then became only eighth place and not even a play-off spot in the shortened 2019/20 League One campaign.
With 10 wins in the opening 26 games of this 2020/21 season, once again Sunderland were struggling to convince anybody that they were on the way back, seemingly no chance of making the automatic promotion spots and looking less and less likely to make even the end of season play-off lottery. Defeat to Shrewsbury on 9 February 2021 completed a run of only four wins in Sunderland’s last sixteen League One matches.
However, following that, Sunderland hit a 12 game run of nine wins, three draws and no defeats, the positivity then sky high when a new club owner took over officially, early on in that run.
Ahead of last weekend, on Friday Sunderland had gone from longshots to hot favourites for promotion and be champions, win their final eight games of the season and they would end the season top of the table and move into the Championship.
Whilst Sunderland were finding it impossible to lose, Newcastle United and Steve Bruce were finding it all but impossible to win, on Friday they were sitting on a run of only two wins in their last twenty one games and with eight matches of the season remaining, favourites at 5/6 odds on to go down.
Newcastle v Sunderland in the Championship next (2021/22) season was now looking odds on.
When it gets to the sharp end of a season, a very small number of results can go a long way in deciding things, in changing the direction of travel.
These past five days certainly doing that.
Fulham losing in the 92nd minute to Wolves on Friday and Newcastle for the first time ever winning a PL game under Steve Bruce having gone behind, ASM turning it from 1-0 Burnley to 2-1 Newcastle within seven minutes of coming off the bench.
Whilst in League One, out of nowhere, in the space of a few days Sunderland have suddenly lost two games at the worst possible time, home to mid-table Charlton and then yesterday Wigan climbed out of the relegation zone with a 2-1 win, despite Sunderland taking the lead.
On Wednesday this leaves the respective tables looking like this.
With seven matches left, Newcastle suddenly six points clear of relegation with a game in hand and now 4/1 to be relegated, Fulham overwhelming favourites at 1/7.
Whilst for Sunderland, they now find Hull 1/20 and Peterborough 1/10 to get promoted as the top two suddenly look nailed on for the automatic promotion spots.
As for Sunderland they are now rated more likely not to be promoted at 5/4, it looking like the play-offs for them and a real lottery, the majority of times the most fancied club of the four doesn’t go up.
A new owner and promotion was looking like a dream scenario for Sunderland fans and a nightmare for Newcastle supporters, if it coincided with United going down, something which would pretty much ensure Mike Ashley would also remain, even if potential buyers were still interested. Nobody would pay the top dollar Ashley would still insist on, for a relegated club.
With far too many false hopes raised these 14 years, no Newcastle fan is going to think any takeover is sure to happen ahead of next season.
However, just maybe luck will finally fall our way with all the ducks at last lined up potentially:
Newcastle United heavy favourites to remain a Premier League club after 23 May 2021 – CHECK
Willing buyer, widespread media reports saying the Saudi backed bidders are still up for it – CHECK
Mike Ashley and his people likewise making clear there remains a winning seller in return for the inflated price the Saudis have always been willing to pay – CHECK
Premier League to finally approve the Newcastle United takeover following the arbitration process initiated by Mike Ashley – ???
That of course remains the big one, which has been the case ever since the Saudis were confirmed as having been willing to pay the price Mike Ashley was demanding.
Can you dare to dream? From fears that Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce were gifting Sunderland the chance to potentially even pass Newcastle with the two clubs heading in different directions (not necessarily promoted / relegated from the Championship but very possible clearly different paths of momentum). To now just maybe believing that within literally weeks, or failing that a couple / few months, Newcastle United could be under new ambitious owners and set to bring in a credible manager and new players to help start the major rebuild after 14 years of Mike Ashley.
One day it will happen and just maybe that day could be this summer.
I’m just off for a lie down…
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