MATCH PREVIEW: Newcastle United v Sunderland, St James’ Park, 20/Mar/16, KO: 1:30pm

by • March 17, 2016 • Match previewsComments (10)4830

TRUE15 LUKE 1977 Voucher (1)



So the day is here.  2,800 Wearsiders get to visit the big city for one day only, so that’s nice for them.  We are managed by Champion of Europe Rafa Benitez, so that’s nice for us.  Three points are crucial in the context of our season, the fixture and our future as we need to stay up to keep Benitez in charge. Unlike most derbies in English football, this fixture doesn’t really do draws, so we’ll just have to win it. It’s our turn, I think.

Let’s talk about them first.   I honestly don’t know what it will take Sunderland fans to criticise the people “running” their Rafa1football club.  They are absolutely abhorrent.  As a club (I’ll come onto that later) and a team.  Literally the worst the league has ever seen that hasn’t been relegated.   Sunderland have won 32 of their last 143 Premier League games dating back to the start of the 2012/13 season.  In the same period we’ve won 42 games – which is still utterly pathetic.  Since 2012/13 Newcastle United’s performance on the pitch has been a joke.  Incompetent people hired by incompetent people doing terrible jobs and making us all miserable.  Yet we’ve won ten more games than Sunderland and six of their wins in this period have been against United.  So Sunderland have won 26 of their last 137 games against teams in the Premier League that aren’t Newcastle United.  That’s a win percentage of 18% and it’s making Steve McClaren blush. Eighteen percent.  That’s what the season ticket money, the shirt sales and any other money Sunderland fans put into their club has achieved against Premier League teams that aren’t in a 14 mile radius.  That is a staggering statistic. A win percentage of 18% gets you relegated so Newcastle United have been keeping Sunderland afloat in this league single handedly for almost 4 years.

As I said, Sunderland fans just seem to accept this.  There’s no wide spread anger against Ellis Short.  Why not?  Do they like losing?  Year after year after year? ‘Time for Change’ was the slogan protest groups have used against Ashley and the people running the club.  What’s the message from Sunderland’s fan base to it’s American billionaire owner.  More of the same?  The obvious conclusion to draw is that had it been six defeats to their local rivals and the 6 wins picked up elsewhere, Wearside would be in revolt.  Only Sunderland fans know if that conclusion has any truth in it.  Hiring Sam Allardyce these days is an admission of the fact you’re in the shit in a big way.  Ever since being deservedly being laughed out of Tyneside he’s only been hired by desperate clubs.  Blackburn were on their way down after the Paul Ince disaster and West Ham had just been relegated.  Sunderland were on their knees after the bizarre appointment of Advocaat.  To be honest he’s good at steadying a sinking ship, it’s what comes next that is the problem.  He may well keep Sunderland up this season. They’ll still be Sunderland and he’ll still be Allardyce. A ‘good fit’.

I wonder what Margaret Byrne makes of it all. She had a canny derby record too. Not that she said much in public, or at
work either from what the club have said.  After all, according to her former employer, when she interviewed her employee and he admitted to kissing and grooming a child, no one else from the board, the owner, other employees, players, any of the three managers were told that he had admitted to much of what he had done.  No one asked to see any minutes from the meeting.  No one asked?
I don’t even have the words.  Only Margaret knew and it was a ‘serious error of judgement’ to allow Johnson to play on to the adulation of 40k+ plus while the victim, a Sunderland fan, watched thousands ‘support’ him through that incredibly painful and difficult time.  It’s tough at the top though.  We all make serious errors of judgement, don’t we?  One too many pints.  Not wearing a jacket to the match.  Supporting Newcastle United.  However to let an employee who has admitted to sending messages of a sexual nature to a child, meeting up with her and kissing her – that doesn’t seem like an ‘error of judgement’. It seems much worse.   The wall of silence from Sunderland AFC has done little to provide answers to Sunderland fans who quite rightly want answers.  99% of Sunderland fans think Byrne and the club have behaved despicably however I wonder if these lads (in the footage included below) will be at the game on Sunday in the away end singing ‘he’s done nothing wrong’.

This isn’t points scoring, I have no idea how those running United would have reacted in the same situation but considering their ability to do the absolute wrong thing in every situation (most recent managerial appointment aside) suggests some form of wrong decision could have been made.  A minority of Sunderland’s support think there is no case for Short to answer.  A smaller minority think there is some form of media vendetta from journalists who’ve posed the very same questions as I have.  Sunderland Football Club contacted true faith after the derby in October asking me to pull down a podcast where we raised the question of Adam Johnson’s celebration for Sunderland’s first goal.  Adam Johnson gave Sunderland assurances his celebration was not in any way relating to anything other than goading the Newcastle United fans at the other end of the stadium 105 metres away, but not in any specific way.  Seems reasona….nope.  This is the same Adam Johnson who a court of law has deemed a liar and the SAME ADAM JOHNSON who had told SAFC that he had kissed a 15 year old and sent her whatsapp messages of a sexual nature.  Yet here I was in October taking down our podcast recorded by fanzine lads who all support Newcastle United.  What a mess and a permanent stain on all those involved. 

Enough of that though, this is supposed to be a match preview and the in between discussing registered sex offenders, Sunderland and Sam Allardyce there has not been any actual football mentioned and we’re 1,000 words in.  Sorry.

Monday was miles better.  I was there and it wasn’t a brilliant performance, but it was a performance which is more than TFBadgecan be said for our last seven away games, and pretty much all before then as well.  Benitez had 48 hours with them, know he’ll have had 8 days.  Not enough time to turn us into a northern version of his two time Valenica La Liga winning side, but expect to see a sustained improvement in United in an attacking sense.  Monday was good for all the wrong reasons.  We pushed Leicester all the way.  we managed to win the ball back regularly and defend quite well.  All of those improvements shouldn’t be improvements at all.  They’re what should be expected not applauded.  However for a team that had won 5 of it’s previous 26 odd away games without doing most of those things in most of the games, it was massive progress.

The game for Benitez comes at a difficult time with fitness doubts over several first team players. Colo owes us so much for October, and missing all the other derbies before us. Colback will likely have to play left back which is good news for whoever plays on their right. I’ve no idea where Tiote is or if he’s injured, but I’d start him or Saivet over Anita. We need some bite in midfield. I thought De Jong played really well when he came on the other night, but Winjaldum will get the nod behind Mitrovic. That only leaves a decision between Townsend and Perez for the other wing position. Considering Perez is not a winger and Townsend is, I’d start the latter. We need pace in the side as without Townsend it is sorely lacking. This being Benitez’s first home game, I don’t really know what to expect, though I imagine he’s preaching patience to the players. Derbies are rarely won in the first 20 minutes of games. There’s no need to go all out attack and then forget how to play like we used to under Pardew.

Cisse may be back -if he is – he should start ahead of Mitrovic. We really need to score some goals. I worry that we have toNewcastle Derby score really, really good goals to score at all. We’re going to have to play the ball in Sunderland’s half of the pitch as I expect Sunderland to sit deep and counter, rather than frustrate us with a possession based game like Bournemouth did to great effect. Allardyce normally loves a big man up front, so he plays them on the wings instead, just to be safe. This can create a lack of width and concentrate attacks centrally. That’s probably a good thing, right?

Set pieces remain a worry with Sunderland possessing decent takers of a corner or free kick. On Monday we didn’t look like conceding bar set pieces and I expect Allarydyce to have spent his two weeks without a game to be drilling the side on this aspect of their game. On the road this season Sunderland have recorded two wins from their 15 away games. Victories at Palace and Swansea had huge slices of luck. Last time out they came within a whisker of an incredible result at Southampton (against ten men) only to be denied in the last minute. Defoe is a threat and has quality. We must mark him out of the game.

The crowd will be onside. I dread to think how this game would have turned out under McClaren. However it is Champions League, Europa League and Club World Cup winner Rafa Benitez in the dug out. Benitez never lost to Everton at home as Liverpool boss and has also won 8 of ten games against Sunderland, losing just one to a goal involving a beach ball. I back him over the man who said openly on television that he ‘does not like’ our manager. Sam Allardyce released a biography last year (not that many noticed) where he went out of his way to criticise Benitez. Benitez’s response when asked?

Do you know who Sam Allardyce is? Do you know how many trophies he has won? Well that’s my answer. It is what happens when someone has a book to sell. His opinion does not have a lot of value.”

Rafa Benitez’s Black n White Army.

Prediction: 5 1 United

ALEX HURST – Follow Alex on @tfalex1892 


For those that are interested, following the derby at the Stadium of Light earlier in the season, we raised questions about the manner in which Adam Johnson celebrated his penalty kick goal against United following the incorrect sending off of Coloccini (a red card that was later rescinded). We asked why Johnson chose to run the length of the pitch to celebrate his goal despite being surrounded on three sides of the stadium by Sunderland supporters. We asked if the manner of Johnson’s celebration, where he appeared to mimic the flight of an aeroplane and if that was meant as an offensive goading gesture towards Newcastle United supporters in reference to two of our supporters killed in flight MH17. Our support had loudly abused Johnson throughout the game in reference to as then outstanding legal proceedings involving sexual offences against a child. Johnson gestured on several occasions following his goal towards the away end. The question was raised by The Daily Telegraph in their reportage of the game too but under pressure from Sunderland AFC removed articles from their website. At no time was true faith was ever threatened with legal action and indeed our dialogue with Sunderland was always polite and affable. We were assured that Adam Johnson had promised the gesture was not meant to offend in any way. In light of those assurances we edited the podcast to remove reference to Johnson and published clarifications online here whilst never really being convinced to be honest.

Subsequent events mean the character and integrity of Adam Johnson should not have been relied upon so heavily by Sunderland AFC in the action they took with The Telegraph or indeed us.

For those interested in reading the pieces published at the time we’ve included them here for you.

Thru Black & White EyesMALADJUSTED – 25/Oct/2015 click here

Johnson article No.1click hereGOAL CELEBRATION 

Johnson article No.2 – click here CASE CLOSED


The current issue of true faith (TF124) is now the most widely read issue of the fanzine we have ever published and we are by some considerable distance, Newcastle United’s number one fanzine as well as the most widely read, independent fans’ led publication in the UK. We have now been in operation since 1999 and that also makes us the longest running Newcastle United fanzine in operation too. Our objective with true faith is to present entertaining and informative coverage of the goings on at Newcastle United that you won’t read anywhere else. We also provide space for the wide football experiences our club’s supporters have both near and far. We’d like to think our coverage is intelligent without being elitist. true faith was previously published in hard-copy but the advantages of the digital era mean we can provide an improved and expanded version of the fanzine with bells and whistles whilst remaining steadfastly true to the roots of the fanzine that is now in its seventeenth year. true faith is now offered completely FREE of charge and works brilliantly on any device you care to name including smart-phone, tablet etc. To get access to this issue, simply click on the image below and you will  be taken to 100+ pages of the best fanzine writing anywhere you can name. 



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10 Responses to MATCH PREVIEW: Newcastle United v Sunderland, St James’ Park, 20/Mar/16, KO: 1:30pm

  1. Jim Myton says:

    More than once this season I’ve commented on how you’ve pretty much summed up everything I’ve been thinking about the state we’ve been in and the chances of it only getting worse, your previews have been cathartic. But please stick to the football, there’s a young woman trying to put her life back together and no matter how justified what you’ve written is, it really isn’t going to help.

    I hope the Sunderland players feel the crowd breathing down their necks on Sunday and that adds to the pressure and causes them to misplace passes galore but please let that be purely about the football and nothing else and, as the majority of mackem fans did after MH17, leave it at that. It’s a game.

  2. mark walsh says:

    I’d take 1-0 o.g.

  3. Nigel Pearson says:

    Mick you are absolutely correct in refusing to allow SAFC to attempt to disassociate themselves from the Adam Johnson affair. Their behaviour has been disrespectful, deceitful, venal and scandalous. It’s laughable to say Ellis Short didn’t know what was going on but if he didn’t he should have! The buck stops with him. Any decent human being upon being asked to manage SAFC in the shadow of the Johnson Affair would have demanded to know the details of what the club knew. Did Fat Sham ask the vital questions? What was he told? There needs to be an FA investigation into what has gone on! They must not be allowed to benefit from their dishonourable behaviour!

  4. Nigel Pearson says:

    I’m also very glad that Raffa seems to have got a grip on our players making banal, cringeworthy statements to the press in advance of the Derby. Let them do their talking on the pitch. This is a reflection of Raffas professionalism & authority.

    Meanwhile in the Village of the Damned resentful, petulant Fat Sham lets his Makem Muppets like Defoe & Borrini spout their deluded drivel without Sanction.

    On Sunday Raffa does not have to say anything to demonstrate his Superiority to Fat Sham he simply has to wear his Champions League Winners Medal!

    Quad erat demumstratum ! KTF !

  5. Nigel Pearson says:

    For the hierarchy of SAFC to say that Byrne didn’t tell them what she knew is like Adolf Hitler saying Death Camps? Death Camps? Never heard of them! You had better ask Himmler & Eichman about that.

  6. Chris Nappin says:

    I personally think that the whole Adam Johnson issue is relevant to mention. I don’t really know if condemnation of Johnson/safc hinders the recovery of the victim myself to be honest.

    I can’t speak for her obviously but the fact that people are questioning the behaviour of the scum who sang in support of him for all those months might actually be quite comforting for her. Or the fact that the outrageous attempted cover up by their former CEO has now been exposed.

    Byrne being forced to resign in public, having helped enforce the position of the club’s support for Johnson, is unlikely to have been met with disapproval from the girl in my opinion. Byrne’s actions will have encouraged the view of many who called her a liar and a slag for the best part of a year – I would see this as justice if I were in the girl’s position.

    We’ll never know for sure but it’s a definite possibility that his celebration was a vile and very public slur against two of the most committed fans in the world who were murdered and whose bodies were blown apart. Just writing that makes me shudder. His celebration could have even been pre-meditated, would it really surprise you given what we learnt about him in the trail?

    I appreciate we’re not directly talking about players, tactics or form here but it’s still football-related and I thought all of what Alex said was valid and relevant. These are our local rivals and scrutinising their players’, fans’ and CEO’s behaviour is part and parcel of it all. The girl has suffered massively through all this but that shouldn’t mean that we don’t talk about what was wrong about every aspect of the whole situation.

    I guess that was a long and boring way of saying that I appreciate that kind of thing in the True Faith pieces and hope that it continues!

    • Pat Hughes says:

      I agree with all that – the diversity of true faith makes it truly independent. It was an awful episode in our neighbour’s history and highlighting that, however briefly, is not a bad thing before we really get behind our lads

  7. Nick says:

    Of course Johnson’s crimes are not something to be blithely discussed and the issue of the moral high ground is not really up for debate. However, the wider issues are important, viz – Sunderland FC knew what he had done and the club continued to select and play Johnson at the end of last season and throughout this season. If a club can be docked points for fielding an ineligible player because some forms relating to registration have not been filled in, then why have Sunderland not been docked points for playing Johnson when they knew the nature of his crimes? Ignoring the emotive stuff about goal celebrations, this is the question that should be being strongly asked of the Premier League or FA or whoever controls this stuff.

  8. Jim Myton says:

    Have to admit I was a bit worried after I posted that what kind of reaction it might get, glad those worries were unfounded. Dig deep enough and every football club will have had players who have done something reprehensible, let’s not forget that we signed Bowyer and Woodgate after they had been in the dock. Maybe because of the money involved, some footballers seem to think that the law doesn’t apply to them.

    Whether or not the lass we are talking about will be watching the game on Sunday I hope our fans can rise above the obvious and leave well alone. It’s one thing to debate it on TF, another to have it beamed out on a Sunday lunchtime, it’s not like the capital’s media are exactly shy of putting our following in a bad light.

  9. Bob says:

    Bloody hell, Norwich are putting up a fight.