So as I type this, two days before Sunderland take to the field at the Stadium of Light for the first time this season, I'm bricking it. This isn't a normal fixture, far from it, this is the most important 90 minutes of football all season, just a tad more important than the away fixture. Yep, it's the Wear-Tyne Derby; a fixture that brings out the hatred between the two clubs and the two sets of supporters more than any other time of the year. There aren't many teams in the world that have the power to make people hate each other for their allegiances, however Sunderland and Newcastle are two of them.
The importance of the game, in the grand scheme of things, is just the same as any other. The same amount of points are at stake as an away tie at Stoke. It's not the points that matter though, it's the bragging rights that the winner will hold until the two teams meet again and fight for those rights once more. Obviously, as it stands, it's the Tynesiders that have the edge on Sunderland in that sense, what with the mauling at St. James' last season and then being thirty seconds away from a win on Wearside soil.
That's in the past, though, and as Sunderland fans, we know that we have to deal with the constant grief for probably the rest of our lives, the only thing that will overrule that is for us to better the scoreline. Unlikely, in my lifetime. For now, though, the best thing for us to do is set the record straight by proving that we're far superior to them lot, first of all by winning the game on Saturday, followed by earning at least a draw on March 3rd. In addition to those, we need to finish above them for the fourth season in a row. Once we have done those three things, maybe people will start to realise that we really are top dogs, and we're here to stay.
We're the favourites going into the game in 48 hours time, but we all know that once the whistle is blown anything can happen. Despite being quietly confident myself about the game, I'm also wary and I'm definitely not underestimating them again. As long as we play to our strengths and repeat the second half performance from Anfield last Saturday, we'll be fine and we'll win. That's a big 'if', however, and it depends what Sunderland turn up. I'm sure Bruce doesn't need to motivate his players any further, the results from last season should do that on their own. Having said that, I hope the longer serving players have told the nine new recruits that this really is a battle, pride is at stake, and that counts for a lot more than any points on offer.
All that's left to say is;
Ha'way the lads.