Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Derby Is Pride and Prejudice - Pickering

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Derby Is Pride and Prejudice - Pickering

Article excerpt

Byline: By Paul Gilder

Nick Pickering will look on enviously when Sunderland and Newcastle clash on Saturday. The former Roker Park hero told Paul Gilder what the derby means to him.

Some footballers are remembered by supporters forever but many more are forgotten completely. A stroll through the mean streets of Moss Side with Nick Pickering is enough to determine which of those categories he falls into.

Approaching Maine Road for Sunderland's Easter Monday meeting with Manchester City, a man who last pulled on the red-and-white stripes more than 17 years ago finds his progress slowed by fans keen to exchange memories and to shake the hand of a Wearside favourite.

If the 39-year-old has one regret it is that he did not feature in more North-East derbies. But Pickering, who stood on the terraces as a boy, has plenty of memories of the occasion, the latest chapter of which will be penned at the Stadium of Light in three days.

"I would be in the Fulwell End, the Roker End, the Paddock, anywhere I could get," said a player who only once lined up in a competitive home derby.

"I understand the passion, the feelings, the pride; I know what's at stake, what this game is all about and I'm looking forward to Saturday as much as ever."

Pickering's only Wear-Tyne league derby appearance was on Easter Monday, 1985. A 0-0 draw with the Magpies wasn't enough to keep the Rokermen in the old First Division and, in a situation which mirrors events today, the relegated club had to offload their best players.

One of them was the young England international. Pickering moved to Coventry, where he would realise one of his lifelong ambitions by collecting an FA Cup winners' medal. But the experience of playing derby football for Sunderland never left him.

"The first derby that comes into my head is one when I was an apprentice at Roker Park," said Pickering, recalling the 1-0 win of April 5, 1980.

"We beat them that day, Stan Cummins got the goal and we went on to win promotion.

"I was 16-years-old and Mick Docherty was the youth-team coach. It was about 2.50pm and he grabbed me and Barry Venison and ordered us to follow him. …

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