Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Given Admits Cats Are the Favourites; Rivals 'Have a Stronger Squad'

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Given Admits Cats Are the Favourites; Rivals 'Have a Stronger Squad'

Article excerpt

Byline: Luke Edwards

SHAY Given believes Sunderland will be the favourites to win tomorrow's Wear-Tyne derby for the first time in more than a decade.

The Newcastle goalkeeper has spent the last 11 years on Tyneside and admitted, despite also playing for the Black Cats on loan at the start of his career, he is a United fan as well as a player.

But the Irishman also suggested that, considering the threadbare nature of Newcastle's resources, the Wearsiders have a stronger squad on paper. However, Given also knows that will create a different type of pressure for their rivals who have not won a North East derby at home for 28 years.

He said: "I think we've had a big boost in the last couple of games and that will set us up nicely to face Sunderland. Even against Man City, it would have been nice to have won the game, but with 10 men, it felt a bit like a victory of sorts to get a draw.

The confidence and the belief has come back to the team.

"It's going to be a tough game, they have signed a lot of players over the summer and they probably have a stronger squad than us at the minute, but it's going to be close again, they always are.

"They will probably be favourites this weekend which makes a change. I don't think that has been the case before when I've been here so that is going to make it a different sort of game for them and us.

They haven't beaten us there since 1980 and will be desperate to do so this year, but we don't want to be the team that is the first to lose at the Stadium of Light."

The pre-derby build-up even affected the Republic of Ireland squad during their recent World Cup qualifiers, with Sunderland's large Irish contingent involved in a few light-hearted clashes with Given and his United team-mate Damien Duff.

Given added: "It was mentioned last week when I was away with Ireland because a few of the squad are obviously playing for Sunderland, but it won't mean anything to me when we're playing against them.

"It's a great game of football to play in.

I'm really excited about it. I think we were all looking forward to it, even when we were playing for Ireland. …

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