We finally saw a bit of fight from Newcastle United and Sunderland on Saturday, as both teams picked up 3-0 victories that made a welcome change in the North East.
But why have they left it so late?
Both clubs are a huge addition to the Premier League and it will be sad to see one (or both) of those clubs go down. It’s now inevitable that at least one will be relegated, as they enter a final five-game scrap for survival along with Norwich.
There was a time when I was at Ajax when Sunderland showed some interest in signing me, the time they had Neil Quinn playing there. I ended up extending my contract at Ajax, but still got the chance to play at the Stadium of Light several times.
Every time I visited I was always impressed by the fans. It was almost a full house every week, and the atmosphere was intense. It was also nearly always raining, so there were a lot of tackles flying in. Who wouldn’t like the sound of that?
Newcastle is no different and when ever I’ve played at St James’ I have never felt it was an easy game. From the first time I visited with Chelsea to my Wigan days, we always said lets get ready for this because this battle won’t stop until the ref tells us to.
Playing against the magnificent Alan Shearer was special. No player has made me more worried while defending a corner than Alan Shearer. As I was marking him I kept pumping myself up, saying to myself if the ball comes and I can’t get there, just make sure he can’t either. So I would jump against him.
I never understood why he didn’t get upset with the way I would handle him during corners, but I’m sure he thought “that young fella is trying his best.”
I could be wrong, but what ever it was he never scored against me during a corner. Well done Mario!
Going back to today, both Newcastle and Sunderland are missing the fire they use to have. Some games they look like a team, but more often both teams attack without any tactical structure. I’ve seen both attack and leave only two defenders and a midfielder to stop the opponents counter attack.
They give so much space away that every team can turn, look up, and set up a player to score. They aren’t the teams they used to be – that would press you, hustle you and beat you because they were fitter and wanted it way more because of the noise of their home fans.
It was never easy for any team to go to Sunderland and walk over them without the Black Cats trying their hardest, but it seems like that has happened on many occasions this season. The game against Norwich was a must win game though, and I know how that feels.
Their upcoming games aren’t easy either, but I think Newcastle have an even harder run in. If it goes down to the last day they could be facing a Spurs side who could need three points to become champions. And looking at the form of the spurs I’m not sure they are the team you won’t to face on the last day.
I’ve been in their situation a number of times. You go to training after a defeat and you try to make the best out of it because you need to prepare for the next game, but the result is still killing you inside. At home you aren’t the best person to be around because sometimes people don’t understand what it does to footballers in a situation like this.
They’ll talk about our lifestyle all day, but deep down they don’t know how bad we feel inside when we lose. The worst is when you meet a fan on the street and he confronts you about a defeat. I would avoid certain places sometimes when I was playing.
The pressure they face going into the last five games is huge. It’s more then a game. It’s a city that will change when at least one of the teams go down.