Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bitterest Rivals Riding a Crest of a Wave

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bitterest Rivals Riding a Crest of a Wave

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner

EVEN in these knee-jerk times, two games into a season is ridiculously early to jump to conclusions, but clearly the last meeting between Newcastle United and Sunderland shaped both clubs' seasons. The Black Cats have since taken an upward course, but it needed a change of manager. Steve Bruce was arguably on borrowed time from the moment he lost his first Tyne-Wear derby of the previous season, battered 5-1. When the rivals met at the Stadium of Light in August, the Black Cats went in as favourites. Perceived wisdom had it that they had enjoyed the better transfer window, though it quickly became apparent the opposite was true.

Alan Pardew's summer recruits were largely unknown and untested.

Like Bruce's much larger but more British intake, they needed time to gel and settle into English football. Beating Sunderland bought that.

Sixth months on, the Magpies remain the Premier League's surprise package, gatecrashing the top six, breathing down the necks of Chelsea and Arsenal.

Their unbeaten start to the league campaign stretched into mid-November, inspired by new recruits Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba.

Pardew admits: "Had we not done as well at the Stadium of Light would we still have had the same season? Possibly not,.

"I am not sure Cabaye would have settled as well as he has because he struggled in that game.

"I thought he had probably his least effective game for us because the intensity of the game passed him by. That was a great learning experience for him.

"Would any of them have settled as quickly? Would we have been able to bounce back from a defeat against Sunderland? "I honestly don't know, but I am sure it would have made it more difficult."

Under Bruce, one had the feeling the derby was one mental barrier too many for the Black Cats.

John O'Shea, who sat out August's game with a torn hamstring, said: "I don't think Sunderland deserved to lose it. …

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