NORTHERN EXPOSURE: Being the North-East's No 1 could crush Sunderland's spirit - it did last time th
26 May 2009 01:51
Northern Exposure - The Daily Mail's North-East football reporter, Colin Young (right), provides expert analysis andbehind-the-scenes insight into the affairs of a footballing heartland - 'the relegation region'.Don't miss it , every week on Tuesdays.
Tomorrow night's training session for Deerness Valley Under 12s promises to be a lively affair.
Like most teams in Durham, we have a fairly even split of Sunderland and Newcastle United supporters and, the poor Mackems in the group have spent all of their 11 years in the shadow of their Geordie rivals, enduring three relegations, including one before they could even walk, never mind kick a ball, or have a clue which team they were going to support.
I expect to see a lot of red and white shirts tomorrow night and plenty of smiles among the Mackem contingent and the black and whites, who might be less keen to wear their colours this week, will have to take their medicine.
Sticks and stones: Sunderland fans hold a banner directed towards local rivals Newcastle at the Stadium of Light
And they might just have to get used to it.
How do I know what awaits us at training? Because their fathers - who judging by the texts I've been receiving since Sunday are rather enjoying this week - would expect nothing else.
And then there were those surreal scenes at the Stadium of Light which greeted Newcastle's defeat at Aston Villa.
Never in Sunderland's history has a defeat been greeted with such scenes of euphoria. This was more than just celebrating Sunderland's own survival. This was all about finally having the opportunity to dance on Newcastle's grave.
Of course Newcastle fans can't really complain, and the more rational among them will admit that they have more than enjoyed Sunderland's difficulties over the past decade.
And there have been plenty. Even when Sunderland could claim to be good and Peter Reid twice took them to seventh, Newcastle qualified for the Champions League.
While Sunderland's best ever manager struggled to build on his success because he could not get the deserved and proper financial backing, his neighbours spent money like it was going out of fashion. Keeping up with the Joneses (Or the Keegans, Dalglishs, Gullitts?) No chance.
Mick McCarthy, assistant Ian Evans and their ingenious scout Dave Bowman eventually built a side of talented youngsters, who have largely gone on to make very good careers in the top levels.
But Sunderland failed to back him too and, like Reid, he was disgracefully and prematurely sacked.
The appointment of Roy Keane meant Sunderland had to be taken seriously, even by Newcastle supporters, but he wasted the resources which Reid and McCarthy could only dream of.
So even when they were supposed to be good - and this is the best squad on paper the club have had - they weren't.
If Newcastle had won on Sunday, for all their troubles, they would have finished above Sunderland.
And that's why the celebrations at the Stadium of Light made uncomfortable viewing for the neutrals among us, especially glancing up to the directors box where there a few too many high fives for comfort.
(Incidentally Bob Murray was also there and he simply stood with a thumps up and wink for his successor. It was very meaningful gesture. He, more than everyone, knows the damage relegation inflicts)