Tuesday 21 April ~

The received wisdom that "there's no such thing as bad publicity" is debatable. But those who run our football clubs now seem to see any form of media attention as a positive thing – exposure is everything. With five Premier League games remaining, however, there is one corner of the country where, for once, one set of supporters would be happy to leave all the publicity to a supposedly more celebrated neighbour. As a Sunderland fan, I'd be very pleased to see plenty more "Toon Doon" headlines as we approach the end of the season.

It's not usually like this. It is a common source of irritation to those who live in the region and don't support Newcastle or live in the city that the north-east is defined nationally by one town and one football club. When Newcastle lose the vast majority of the region smiles rather than swears. Yet Newcastle's domination of the north-east seems to be growing. The marketing of NewcastleGateshead as a unified city grates on many. At a recent cultural event I spluttered into my complimentary glass of wine as the speaker compared both sides of the river Tyne to those of the Danube. For Newcastle and Gateshead, read Buda and Pest. Though the media's view of Newcastle Utd has soured over the last few years, there is often still an overtone that the Premier League somehow "needs" Newcastle. Going by this theory, think what wonders the presence of Newcastle could do for the Championship.

Compared to what seems to me to be the deluded optimism of many Newcastle fans, pessimism is a natural state for a Sunderland supporter. Especially so this season when the club is still not safe and there are clear problems. The cautious hope of Niall Quinn's new regime has long since disappeared along with the positive publicity brought by Roy Keane. Millions have been spent over recent seasons and this is, on paper, the best Sunderland team I have ever seen. But performances have not been good, the team has not gelled and many believe that, though a excellent coach, Ricky Sbragia is out of his depth as manager. Wearside is in paralysis. Many believe that Newcastle will wriggle out of it as always, very possibly at Sunderland's expense.

I do have Newcastle-supporting friends who have resigned themselves to relegation. But this only makes the tension worse. It's so close yet so far. If Newcastle do survive and Sunderland don't, the unfair balance of power and attention in the north-east will be emphasised again. This time the scars may last for years to come, defining a generation of north-east football fans. Many Newcastle supporters claim that their red-and-white counterparts are "obsessed" with their local rivals. But this cuts both ways – last time Sunderland were relegated, a fanzine was produced with a singular subject matter and title: "Let's all laugh at Sunderland". The stakes are high. In the meantime the only thing for me to do is put a modest wager on Newcastle staying up. It's the only way of guaranteeing some joy come May 24. Ed Upright

Comments (8)
Comment by Theo Kretschmar Schuldorf 2009-04-21 15:21:01

As a Newcastle fan, I'd like some of this deluded optimism of which you speak, please. (Top marks for getting the 'deluded fans' keywords into an article about Newcastle United, by the way. Presumably only the fact that you live in the North-East prevented you from saying that football's like a religion up there and the fans are really passionate and deserve better etc.)

I hope that Newcastle survive, although put me firmly in the resigned pessemist camp, and - choke, mumble - I hope Sunderland do too. Ordinarily I would wish fourth bottom on Sunderland but we may have a use for it this year. But we need the derbies: I'd rather see Newcastle playing Sunderland than have the Mackems go down. Course, we might get both next season...

Comment by el gato negro 2009-04-21 15:32:00

Well, their ex-players certainly are deluded. David Ginola believes:

“It would be a disaster for the city if Newcastle went down. But it would be a disaster for the Premier League as well. The English game would suffer. Newcastle belong to the Premier League and belong to the history of football.”

Comment by sw2boro 2009-04-21 15:46:12

Both of them go down? We'll see about that!

You know nothing about pessimism.

Comment by jackofalltrades 2009-04-21 19:00:28

Do the WSC authors write as they feel, or do they resort to lazy button-pressing in the hope of stimulating debate? I mean, when Ed Upright writes "..those who run our football clubs now seem to see any form of media attention as a positive thing – exposure is everything" does he REALLY think that Mike Ashley believes that? Or Niall Quinn?

"When Newcastle lose, the vast majority of the region smiles rather than swears" - simple fact-checking reveals that - last season - Newcastle averaged a home crowd in excess of 51,000, compared to Sunderland's average of just over 43,000 - if 'the vast majority' of the region have no love for Newcastle, then clearly they have a lot less love for Sunderland... fact, on the basis that I could be biting at a mackem's bait, I'm going to stop right there - the argument can keep until the next Premiership season because 'deluded optimist' that I am - I'm putting a modest wager on the Baggies, Boro and Hull for the drop.

But I won't be too disappointed if Sunderland cost me my bet.

Comment by Portmuthian_Blue 2009-04-22 00:50:43

I'd love it if the Geordies go down. Love it.

Comment by sw2boro 2009-04-22 17:01:32

And that kind of gets to the point. Boro average 30000ish, Pools 4000ish, Darlo 2500ish and most of them would love it if you went down (although the latter two would love it more if Boro go down). North-east not just Newcastle.

Comment by fbrazolin 2009-04-22 19:28:01

Newcastle seems to be like Corinthians here in Sao Paulo. In 2007, when Corinthians were relegated to Série B (second division), the same "the championship will lose without Corinthians" mumbo-jumbo was spread all over the country.

The team played Série B in 2008 and nobody missed them in Série A. Now they're back stronger and more organized, like a really important team should be.

Playing lower divisions is not the end of the world, at least not anymore. And remember, I'm talking about Brazil, a war field compared to England when it comes to championship planning.

(Funny, Corinthians and Newcastle share the same colors)

Comment by jackofalltrades 2009-04-24 09:01:26

Fair point SW2BORO, but don't be fooled by the authors weasel-words....he starts by voicing the complaint that Newcastle have been 'chosen' by the media to (mis)represent the North-East, but in his article mentions no-one else other than Sunderland (and lets be honest, any footballing article that even touches on relegation and DOESN'T mention Boro has to be a rarity these days) - if you remeove his Sunderland bias, surely the direction his initial complaint should be taking is 'what about those lazy geographically-challenged media types down there in London then, eh?'?

Instead, the article reverts to the usual Mackem, chip-on-their-shoulder whining about "the unfair balance of power"...

Related articles

Bobby Robson film offers smiles, tears and plenty of fond memories
Embed from Getty Images // Watching the elegantly put together More Than A Manager highlights why Robson was so revered by fans, players and...
Old Too Soon, Smart Too Late: My Story by Kieron Dyer
with Oliver Holt Headline, £20Reviewed by Gavin BarberFrom WSC 377, July/August 2018Buy the book Kieron Dyer comes across in these pages as...
Any Given Saturday by Shay Given
Sport Media, £20Reviewed by Jonathan O’BrienFrom WSC 376, June 2018Buy the book To most Ireland fans, Shay Given will be remembered...