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Derby hero desperate to shine again for Sunderland
DERBY DAY has already experienced a Fabio Borini trademark goal-celebration and Sunderland's Italian forward is determined to twist a knife in to the Magpies' push for a top six finish this season.
Back in October, Borini was a second half substitute for his first taste of a Tyne & Wear meeting and just 15 minutes after his introduction he fired his name in to Wearside folklore.
The 22-year-old powered in the winning goal six minutes before the end at the Stadium of Light to seal back-to-back wins over Sunderland's staunchest rivals.
He will be in Gus Poyet's starting line-up this lunch-time at St James' Park looking to repeat the trick, which would mean a third successive win over Newcastle for the first time since 1923.
And if he does deliver, Borini will reel out his celebration again … turning away after finding the net and biting his hand. Yesterday he explained why.
He said: “In Italy, we have an expression when we say 'we never give up. We always fight'. So I put the knife between the teeth to show the hunger I have for every game and every day when I get to the training ground.”
Such an approach to today's game is exactly what Sunderland fans will want to see from the men wearing a red and white shirt on Tyneside soil.
But he knows it will not be an easy afternoon. He said: “I always knew that the derby was the game of the season. The one that really counts. This is the one when Sunderland fans can have a joke about Newcastle if we win. So it is really important.
“There has been a lot of build-up, we have been waiting for this second leg, after beating them at our place. There is a real buzz about the place and a nice tension about the game which makes it vital that we win.”
He added: “The last derby was the day I made my relationship with the fans. Scoring in a derby is always important but a winning goal is always a winning goal whether it is a derby or not.
“If it gets you three points, that is what matters. But obviously this one was more emotional because it will always be remembered by the fans. They always remember every game against Newcastle. That goal has been really good for me in cementing my relationship with them. It was so important for my confidence on the pitch.”
While the 22-year-old's appearances in a derby are limited, he has experienced what such occasions are like during his time with Liverpool (V Everton) and Roma (v Lazio).
Borini said: “I obviously remember the Roma derby - I scored in that although we lost 2-1. That is something that is unreal because the noise is so loud, you can feel it and the tension surrounding the game two weeks before.
“All of the city is talking about the derby and getting ready for it. The two teams play in the same stadium and are fighting for the same targets during the season. So that is great.”
There are similarities to this weekend. The difference to October's Stadium of Light meeting is that this time he will be a key component of the Sunderland system which turns out at St James' Park, which is exactly what he had been striving for during the early part of the campaign when he was in and out of both Paolo Di Canio and Gus Poyet's sides.
Borini, on loan from Liverpool until the end of the season, said: “It took me a little bit of time to get going but I have been pleased with how things have gone since that goal and to get back on form.
“It is very important for me to work physically. When you get your fitness right, it makes a big difference and you feel good on the pitch. Of course, I feel tired after games but there have been times in the past when I have felt almost dead after a game.”
Will Borini be still on Wearside next season, though? He said: “In football, it is not worth thinking long term especially at my age and what has happened to me in the past.
“I have basically changed teams every year so I am just focusing on every game. And I have a big target to achieve which is the World Cup in the summer and if I have any decision to make I will make it after that.
“I have not really spoken to Brendan Rodgers since I have been here. He did text me after the Newcastle goal but after that, I have not heard from him.”