I'm backing the Magpies to win Light show - 23/02/2002
If Newcastle win the next two games, I think the Premiership title could be theirs. I know I said as much before the match at Old Trafford in January, but that defeat didn't mean they were out of it. This week sees Man Utd, Arsenal and Liverpool back in Champions League action and that's a massive distraction when you are chasing the title. The only problem for Newcastle is that the next two Premiership games are against Sunderland and Arsenal. A win for the Black Cats tomorrow will mean all the disappointments of this campaign for the Wearsiders will be forgotten for the time being. All the frustrations of the supporters that we saw a few weeks ago will be right out of the window. And like any derby match. it's not going to be decided on ability - Newcastle have much more match winners but that won't mean a thing if United aren't willing to battle. If Sunderland were playing Arsenal, I would have no hesitation in backing the Gunners to win. But they are not, it's Newcastle and the home crowd won't care how they do it, but they'll be demanding a Sunderland win. It's going to be a battle in the first-half and the result will come down to pure passion. I think both teams will have the heart for a fight because it means so much to both Newcastle's and Sunderland's seasons. But I'm backing Newcastle to win as I think it's going to come down to the law of averages. Usually I'll look at the left winger and who's going to get the ball forward but this time I've just got a feeling United are due a derby win. Sunderland are unbeaten in six derby games and that little run could well come to an end tomorrow. They have had a few breaks in recent derby games, though I would have to give Thomas Sorensen credit for a great save at St.James Park last season. As for the team, I think it's asking a bit much to bring Jermaine Jenas on from the start. Nothing prepares you for a Tyne Wear derby and for a young lad it could be too much too soon. I still vividly remember my first derby match at Roker in the first few weeks of the promotion season, and of course, we went on to win 2-1. It was just electric, I went out on the pitch before the game and the atmosphere from both sets of fans was just incredible. When you went to the touchline you just hoped it was your supporters - as they only seemed to be an arms length away. Not only that, but the build up was intense, you just couldn't get away from it, even if you were just filling up your car at the garage. I would have to rate that game itself - decided by a Liam O'Brien free kick - as one of the best experiences of my career.
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