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Our man: Power has shifted from Newcastle to Sunderland

 

 

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« Previous « PreviousNext » Next »View GalleryADVERTISEMENTPubli shed Date: 27 October 2008

 

 

Sunderland fans spend their lives near water, so they're well-placed to recognise a sea-change when it comes.

And that's exactly what Saturday's defeat of Newcastle represented in terms of the North East's footballing fortunes.

 

>> VIDEO: Highlights of Sunderland 2 Newcastle 1

 

Not a blip. Not a fluke. Not the guerilla victories against the odds, which were the hallmarks of Peter Reid's 2-1 triumphs at St James's Park.

 

But a tidal shifting of power from Tyneside to Wearside.

 

For make no mistake, this result was as much about the beginning of a new era, as it was about the end of an old one.

 

And with Sunderland set fair at every level – chairman, board, manager and players – to continue progress, the overwhelming evidence is there that, thrilling though it might have been, victory over United was not some Everest conquered as far as Sunderland were concerned.

 

It was base camp.

 

Winners now in the last three North East derbies – Newcastle once, Middlesbrough twice – Sunderland are the lead side in the region and it does not look like a lead in danger of being lost in the forseeable future, as their neighbours, either side of them, wrestle with very different, but very compelling problems of their own.

 

Fans are entitled to fear on Tyneside and Teesside that, after so many good years, they're in danger of facing the beginning of the end of their time in the top-flight spotlight.

 

But in Sunderland, it feels only like the end of the beginning.

Into the top half for the first time this season, Sunderland will look to push on now and consolidate that position when they visit Stoke on Wednesday.

 

But they will travel to the Britannia Stadium in the highest of spirits thanks to a win on Saturday which meant so very much to their supporters – a first win Sunderland over Newcastle on home soil for almost three decades.

 

The whole "28 years of hurt" thing was, of course, always a bit misleading, an exagerration for media effect.

 

There weren't 28 games in those years – several times Sunderland were in a higher division – and there were plenty of draws in that sequence too, occasions on which the Magpies escaped by the skin of their beaks.

 

But it was still a dismal record and a useful tool for United fans to beat Sunderland supporters over the head with.

 

It also underlined a fact of life since the arrival of Kevin Keegan on Tyneside first time around: that since Sky's love-in with the "Entertainers", Sunderland have lanquished a long way behind in the nation's eyes in terms of significance.

 

It continues even now, although we have to expect that.

 

The most irritating article in the Sunday newspaper sports sections yesterday were not the more overblown accounts of crowd trouble at the derby, in which the unkind or the insightful might have sensed a few ruffled Magpie tailfeathers among the writers' quills.

 

Instead, it was an exclusive, double page story in one of the red tops which predicted that Roy Keane could be on his way to Spurs as the club's new manager – a story which seemed to be based solely on the supposition that: "The ex-Manchester United skipper has never made any secret of his ambition to manage at the highest level – and may consider Spurs a step in the right direction."

 

Who could right such ludicrous stuff? Well, the writer was called Harry Pratt. Which might provide an answer of sorts.

 

But the statement summed up the mentality which still sees Sunderland as some sort of obscure wind-blasted North Eastern outpost by those who are ignorant of the club's history, tradition or past achievements.

 

"I think maybe journalists in the North East have bought more quickly, into what we are trying to build and achieve here," confided Keane, after his interrogation by the national Press at White Hart Lane in the wake of Sunderland's August defeat of Spurs.

 

He had been asked about the significance of a victory over Spurs in the same way as Rocky might have been quizzed by incredulous hacks after beating Apollo Creed.

 

That perception is slowly changing though and while Keane might regard his win over Newcastle as a "baby step" in the right direction, it was, in fact, a giant and symbolic leap as far as Sunderland fans were concerned.

 

Since the start of the Premiership in 1992, anyone writing down a list of Sunderland's best 11 and Newcastle's best 11 and trying to pick the best side out of the two sets, would have found that maybe eight, nine, 10, or maybe even 11 of those players would have been black and white.

 

Before kick-off on Saturday, try the same exercise and your selection sheet would have been dominated by red and white.

 

At the weekend, the game went the way of the superior side and the way Niall Quinn and Roy Keane are building the club, that superiority might remain for some time.

 

Only the most grudging and one-eyed of observers could argue that the final score did not reflect a worthy outcome of the contest they'd witnessed.

 

And in the likes of Cisse, Richardson, Malbranque and Chimbonda – not to mention the returning Kenwyne Jones – Sunderland have the players to carry them into the top half of the table and establish them there, even before any strengthening in January's transfer window.

 

At the final whistle of any Sunderland game on Saturday, it is my duty to phone over the front page of the Football Echo, crystalising as quickly as possible the events of the preceding 90 minutes.

 

It's the most pressurised moment of the week, but the early kick-off this Saturday gave me a few minutes grace and I spent them with the receiver laid down, watching Sunderland fans singing songs as their heroes danced on the Stadium of Light turf or simply kneeled and fell into the grass.

 

Yes, there was some crowd trouble, and the police should have been much better prepared for that. But it was hardly the stuff of front page leads.

 

And my abiding memory was of the joy of Sunderland's supporters, revelling at finally being top dog over United at the Stadium of Light.

 

And also of watching the likes of Cisse, Chimbonda and Ferdinand leading choruses among the crowds.

 

I think on Saturday, they saw the real power and passion of Sunderland and were surprised, thrilled and proud of it in equal measure. If they hadn't bought into the club before; they have now.

 

The one thing Keane will be guarding against today, tomorrow and Wednesday, is the danger of "After the Lord Mayor's Show" on a chilly, midweek night in the Potteries following such a wonderful weekend on Wearside.

 

But there's no getting away from the fact that something has changed in Sunderland after that win over Newcastle.

 

Newcastle and Middlesbrough have both had much to stick their chests out about in recent years compared to Sunderland.

 

At Newcastle, for example, there are those remarkable 100 European games they've been involved in, in contrast to Sunderland's two. At Middlesbrough, the proud boast of being the last team in the region to lift silverware, thanks to their Carling Cup triumph.

 

Now though, the progress being made at Sunderland is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore or explain away.

 

And on Saturday, that progress finally saw the well-run club overtake Newcastle as the North East's main footballing power.

 

Hopefully, the ripples of that seismic shift will eventually spread across the country so that long-held perceptions finally begin to change.

 

The revival hasn't happened overnight.

 

But then it's not going to be an overnight thing, this solid resurgence in the status of Sunderland.

 

What there's no denying though, is that the Mackems are on the march.

 

They're back in the Premiership and they're no longer here just to make up the numbers. Saturday simply provided a little more proof of that. ;)

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There weren't 28 games in those years – several times Sunderland were in a higher division – and there were plenty of draws in that sequence too, occasions on which the Magpies escaped by the skin of their beaks.

 

Would love to know the facts but I'd imagine we were in the top division more than Sunderland in those years. ;)

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There weren't 28 games in those years – several times Sunderland were in a higher division – and there were plenty of draws in that sequence too, occasions on which the Magpies escaped by the skin of their beaks.

 

Would love to know the facts but I'd imagine we were in the top division more than Sunderland in those years. ;)

 

I saw every game in that period and we never "escaped" with a draw.

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There weren't 28 games in those years – several times Sunderland were in a higher division – and there were plenty of draws in that sequence too, occasions on which the Magpies escaped by the skin of their beaks.

 

Would love to know the facts but I'd imagine we were in the top division more than Sunderland in those years. ;)

 

 

NUFC...SAFC

.2nd .....1st...........1980-1

.2nd .....1st...........1981-2

.2nd .....1st...........1982-3

.2nd .....1st...........1983-4

.1st.......1st...........1984-5

.1st.......2nd..........1985-6

.1st.......2nd..........1986-7

.1st.......3rd...........1987-8

.1st.......2nd..........1988-9

.2nd.......2nd..........1989-90

.2nd .....1st...........1990-1

.2nd.......2nd..........1991-2

.2nd.......2nd..........1992-3

.1st.......2nd..........1993-4

.1st.......2nd..........1994-5

.1st.......2nd..........1995-6

.1st.......1st...........1996-7

.1st.......2nd..........1997-8

.1st.......2nd..........1998-9

.1st.......1st...........1999-2000

.1st.......1st...........2000-1

.1st.......1st...........2001-2

.1st.......1st...........2002-3

.1st.......2nd..........2003-4

.1st.......2nd..........2004-5

.1st.......1st...........2005-6

.1st.......2nd..........2006-7

.1st.......1st...........2007-8

.1st.......1st...........2008-9

 

So since they last beat us, they were in a higher division 5 times, we were in the better division 12 times. :icon_lol:

 

What a sh*te argument that was.

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