I saw Newcastle play three times at Roker Park, drawing one and winning two. In 1996, with away fans officially banned, I watched Les Ferdinand head the winner from the Clockstand terrace, saving my celebrations for the train ride home. Two years later they knocked it down.
I'd moved abroad before the first derby at the Stadium of Light, but I listened to us toss away a two goal lead from the basement of an internet cafe in Busan, South Korea. For the next two years I was in Seoul, and the year after that I heard Solano's penalty winner on the BBC World Service from my kitchen in Siracusa, Sicily. Five years later, I missed Sunderland's first home derby win in 28 years while I tried to find a bar showing the game in Shimo-Kitazawa, Tokyo. "Bollocks," I shouted, seeing the result online. "It's only a game," said my soon to be ex-girlfriend.
United name a strong side, with Sol Campbell making his debut and Peter Lovenkrands on the left of midfield. There are a couple of thousand Sunderland fans to our left, gradually spreading out to fill the middle tier of the West Stand. "If you hate Newcastle, clap your hands," a few dozen start singing. "My old man said be a Sunderland fan," break in the three or four hundred Newcastle fans behind the goal.
Even at reserve team level, a Tyne-Wear derby matters. United score once, twice, three times, seats are snapped off and taunts fly back and forth. "Cheer up Alan Shearer..." "4-1, even Chopra scored" "...to a sad Geordie bastard..." "Kill the Mackems!" Campbell goes off at half time, having had to exert himself with little more than a forward run and two hooked clearances. Sunderland hit the post twice late on and pull a goal back with a penalty but ten-man Newcastle, with Nile Ranger outstanding up front, deserve the win.
Not that I'm biased or anything.
Date: 31st August 2010