With influential players such as Andy Carroll, Kevin Nolan and Jose Enrique having left in the last eight months, and with Joey Barton having been placed on the transfer list because of critical comments he made in pre-season, it was feared that Newcastle's much-vaunted team unity was being eroded.
However, after Ryan Taylor's free-kick briefly took the Magpies to the top of the Premier League table, the full-back's namesake, Steven, hailed the strength of the bond that continues to hold the Newcastle squad together.
There is still a lot of spirit within this club, said the centre-half. We have a small squad, but we stick together. We're very closely knit and we'll enjoy this result as a team.
In the past, that hasn't always been the case, but we're very close and we'll enjoy this together. It's going to be a fantastic night for us, just like it's going to be for everyone in the city.
The determination and the spirit was clear in the dressing-room beforehand. The lads knew what it was all about. If the French lads were in any doubt about what this game meant, I'm pretty sure it was knocked out of them in the warm-up. They knew what they were letting themselves in for.
Saturday's game was Taylor's third victory over Sunderland, but the Newcastle-raised defender insists he will never tire of getting one over on the old enemy.
I've had a few of these now and they're still as enjoyable, he said. There's nothing better than beating Sunderland. I love playing in these games and they're even better when you win.
I know what it means. It means as much to me as it does to the fans, that's why before the game I made a point of running over to them to make sure we were all getting into it together.
We know how to handle ourselves in this kind of game. We have players who know how to fight. We probably couldn't have played any worse than we did in the first half, but they couldn't score.
So we said at half-time, 'Right, now it's our turn to play'. We wanted to settle their crowd and we did. We got more of the ball to our attacking players and that made a difference.