Send us your pictures, video, news and views by texting NORTHERN ECHO to 80360 or email us
O’Neill seeking derby peace
MARTIN O’NEILL hopes old wounds will not resurface on the touchline at the Stadium of Light on Sunday – but expects the 146th Wear-Tyne derby to have all the intensity fans of Sunderland and Newcastle United have come to expect.
The Black Cats manager and Magpies counterpart Alan Pardew clashed several times during a 1-1 draw in March when the fourth official had to keep the pair apart.
Disagreements rumbled on in the immediate aftermath of the meeting, but differences were settled at the League Managers’ Association’s end of season dinner in May when Pardew was awarded top boss.
The last meeting between the North-East’s Premier League rivals also saw Newcastle’s goalkeeper coach Andy Woodman sent to the stands, Stephane Sessegnon dismissed for a slap on Cheik Tiote and Lee Cattermole red carded after the final whistle for verbally abusing referee Mike Dean.
O’Neill hopes all parties have learned from the March mess, but is not expecting too much of the volatile derby atmosphere to be missing when the rivalry resumes on Wearside soil.
“It wasn’t edifying was it?”
said O’Neill. “I think a number of things can happen in the spur of the moment which you can be annoyed with yourself for. Both of us, I would hope, will have learned our lesson from the previous encounter.
“It did spill over last season.
Hopefully there will be no repeat of that. I have spoken to Alan on a number of occasions since, saying ‘well done’ on the manager of the year, it was well deserved after a great year.
“I am hoping the unedifying part of it, we will be able to cut that out of this game.”
Sunderland head into Sunday’s game looking to avenge the defeat on the second weekend of last season, when Ryan Taylor’s free-kick at the Stadium of Light set Newcastle up for a fifth place finish.This time the Magpies are two points ahead of their neighbours and Sunderland have a game in hand.
O’Neill said: “Not that Walter Smith was at Rangers when I was at Celtic, but he made a comment that even when the game was over, and even if you had won, his first reaction was relief and I could understand that. It was relief that the game was over, you hadn’t lost.”
During O’Neill’s time at Celtic he also had Steve Walford, his first-team coach at Sunderland, alongside him.
After the pair’s first experience of a Newcastle-Sunderland game, there was a belief within the Black Cats coaching team that the bite was as strong as an Old Firm meeting.
“I was involved in many derby games, particularly ones in Glasgow [and] between Sunderland and Newcastle, and the intensity of this one is up there with any of them,” said O’Neill. “Steve Walford mentioned that it was a similar intensity to the Old Firm after that game [in March].
“It was pretty hostile and it was intense. I think Steve probably feels there’s nothing like a Celtic-Rangers game, so for him to say that it was up there with those, every bit as intense, that was interesting.”
He added: “This is a very important game for us. It might not be a defining moment in the season, but it is a significant one. It would be a boost to confidence for us to beat Newcastle, who had an excellent season last season.
There would be a sense of making some progress.”
O’Neill will make a late decision made on whether to include full-back Danny Rose in the starting line-up. He trained at the Academy of Light yesterday following his return from international duty with the England Under- 21s.
He is still very much in the spotlight after being in the centre of the troubles during Tuesday night’s controversial European Championships play-off tie in Serbia.
Rose was the target of many racial taunts during the match and his celebrations after Connor Wickham’s late winner sparked ugly scenes at the end of the game.
O’Neill, who did not see the events unfold but has been given details, said: “I will give him an opportunity to let things lie for a day or two.
“I will speak to him closer to the time and see what state of mind he is in. I would like to point out that everybody at this football club – and his own club [Tottenham] – are very much on his side.
“It will depend on how he feels. I am sure he will want to play.”
O’Neill confirmed that defender Titus Bramble is the only major concern with a sore hip.
Comments are closed on this article.