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Pardew: 'The derby fall-out will dominate the next two months'
ALAN PARDEW admits the outcome of tomorrow's Wear-Tyne derby will dictate the mood at Newcastle United and Sunderland for the majority of the next two months.
On the face of it, tenth-placed Newcastle travel to the Stadium of Light in much better shape than their rivals, who are rooted to the foot of the Premier League with just one point from their first eight matches. If things go wrong tomorrow, however, the Magpies manager accepts that will count for very little.
Two seasons ago, the springboard for Newcastle's rise to fifth position was a 1-0 win over Sunderland in the second game of the campaign. On the red-and-white side of the divide, the result is widely interpreted as the point at which Steve Bruce's position began to become untenable.
Last season, Newcastle's 3-0 derby defeat sent them into a tailspin that almost resulted in relegation, such was the strength of the reaction to such a heavy reverse on home soil. Sunderland, however, buoyed by a rare regional triumph, quickly clambered to safety under Paolo Di Canio.
More than any other fixture, the derby has assumed a life of its own. Whatever happens tomorrow, the ramifications will endure.
“This is a tough game because there is a big fall out afterwards, particularly in the North-East,” said Pardew, whose derby record currently stands at one win, three draws and one defeat. “Even if you draw and have not performed well, it gets a huge amount of column inches and conspiracy theories are written about it.
“If you do well, you get adulation, perhaps beyond the levels of what the performance actually deserves. That tide of optimism can carry you, and obviously that is what we're looking for.
“I remember Steve Bruce saying to me, 'You have just killed the next six weeks for me' (after Newcastle won on Wearside two seasons ago). I did not actually know what he meant.
“For me, at the time, it was a case of, 'Okay, it's a derby, now let's go to the next game'. But when you understand how the North-East works, it's not like that.”
Pardew's sole derby win as Newcastle boss came when Ryan Taylor's free-kick settled the August 2011 game at the Stadium of Light.
That was his second derby game on Wearside – the first finished in a 1-1 draw little more than a month after he was appointed – and he clearly relishes the challenge of entering the lair of his regional rivals.
Some North-East managers have attempted to play down the importance of the derby; others appear to have been consumed by it. Pardew posits himself somewhere in between, although he continues to regard the fixture as one of this country's great games despite the sustained underachievement of its two protagonists.
“I was an outsider and now I'm an insider, but my opinion is the same as when I arrived,” he said. “It has a special atmosphere and a special electricity to it which is not seen often.
“Sometimes, Arsenal vs Tottenham can be like that, certainly Rangers vs Celtic and I have been to a couple of Manchester derbies which have been similar, but this is right up there.
“It is about having two sides to your game. You need to have a competitive edge and deal with that real battle of locking horns. Then, you have to play, and it is the team that starts playing first that usually wins. Not always, but usually.”
In April, Newcastle never got going at all as they were engulfed by a Sunderland side energised by the recent arrival of Di Canio.
This time around, Gustavo Poyet, so often the scourge of Newcastle as a player, is the newcomer in the Sunderland dug out, but Pardew is hoping the memory of last season's embarrassment will help ensure his players are not caught cold again.
“I hope there are still some mental scars from that game,” he said. “You want your players to use that as a positive. There is something on every game, but in this game there is a little bit more. Firstly, it is a derby. Secondly, because of the last result, the team needs to reflect what happened.
“We will be putting out a very similar team to that one – (Loic) Remy is the only real change. We were tired from the European quarter-final (against Benfica) the week before, I have no doubt about that in my mind. But that needs to be proved because, if we get beat 3-0 again, I haven't got that argument this time.”
After shaking off a hamstring injury, Steven Taylor is set to partner Mike Williamson at the heart of the Newcastle defence in the absence of the suspended Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.
Fabricio Coloccini is nearing a return to full fitness despite scares he could be facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines, but is more likely to be available for Wednesday's Capital One Cup game with Manchester City.
“Colo has had a really good week,” said Pardew. “We let him stay out in Argentina for another four or five days just to let the injury settle down and that's been a good decision. He has worked with the national team there and come back in good stead.
“Fingers crossed with him, because it would be a great boost for us if he could come back. If not for this one, then for Manchester City or Chelsea (next Saturday).”
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