The Wear-Tyne/Tyne-Wear Derby rarely fails to disappoint.
Over the past twelve months at university, I’ve had many a debate: whether or not Machiavelli’s Il Principe can be used to justify all kinds of tyranny; whether or not fascists and leaders of the far right should be given a platform to share their fascist and often offensive political views; whether or not Proust can be considered the greatest novelist of all time.
One debate I never thought I would have was whether or not the Wear-Tyne Derby is the greatest derby in the world.
For undoubtedly it is, and there should be no debate.
This is something that I’ve spent the past year trying to convince my new ‘non-geordie’ friends of being true. Going to school in Newcastle as a Sunderland fan was hard. I received at times almost unbearable stick off everyone in the school. We would constantly fell out over which set of strikers were the better, which club the ‘bigger’ and which city the greater. One thing that we did see eye to eye on, however, was the magnitude of this game and the incomparable passion both sets of fans show for it. No game means more, no victory can raise spirits higher, no defeat can crush lives harder, than when Sunderland AFC take on Newcastle United.
A short video to get you pumped for the derby today.
Two cities, fourteen miles apart. In the North East, you do not have the privilege of choice. This is bigger than any London, Manchester or Merseyside derby, where families can diverge in their footballing loyalties yet can still live under the same roof. The Wear-Tyne derby goes well beyond the realm of football. The allegiance is not just to a club, but to your home, to your city, to your family, and is something you are born with. It is about leaving the battle field with the spoils of war and attaining glory for your town. For the winners, ecstasy, pride, bragging rights to simply say “we are better than you” and for their opponents to accept it, for half a season at least; campanilismo, as the Italians might call it.
There have been some unbelievable and unforgettable games in this fixture in the past: a play-off semi final, a ten goal thriller, a halloween horror show; numerous last-minute winners – and in roughly four and a half hours time, a new chapter will have been written.
The current crisis that both clubs find themselves in may well deceive the neutral into thinking that today’s 14.05 kick off much further South down the A19 and West along the M62 is the bigger game. But it’s easier to support a club that is sitting comfortably in the top four than one whose very future is unsure and may well depend on a victory today.