Sunderland meet their nearest and least dearest rivals Newcastle at the Stadium of Light on Sunday in the latest edition of the Tyne-Wear derby. It’s one of the most fiercely competed derbies in the top flight, with its fair share of thunderous tackles, early baths and horse-punching antics. But it’s a hostile environment that the two men in the dugout have never prepared for, and never experienced. So who has the bottle to come out on top?
Both Newcastle and Sunderland go through managers like Steve Bruce goes through warm pastries, so we don’t have to go too far back (15 years to be precise) to find a list of managers from both sides who experienced the thrill of their first Tyne-Wear derby. And it’s the Toon Army who tend to draw first blood.
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In fact Newcastle managers have a 57 per cent win rate in their first derby games since 2000. Only one man suffered defeat and, unsurprisingly, it was Joe Kinnear. In 2008 Kinnear’s side lost 2-1 at the Stadium of Light, as Kieran Richardson bagged the winner with 15 minutes to go. On a brighter note for the Magpies almost two years later to the day, Chris Hughton’s first derby experience ended in a 5-1 thumping for Sunderland as a Kevin Nolan hat-trick and a Shola Ameobi brace sank the Black Cats.
That 5-1 defeat was Sunderland manager’s Steve Bruce’s first taste of a derby game and is pretty much a reflection of Mackem manager’s in their first clash with Newcastle. Since 2000 Sunderland gaffers have just a 29 per cent win in their first derby games, although both Paolo Di Canio and Gus Poyet picked up victories in their first derby clashes.
History suggests that would give John Carver a slight edge, but neither side’s form is particularly inspiring.
The Geordies have won just one of the last seven, while Sunderland have won just one of the last eight and are just one point above the drop zone. The stats don’t get any brighter – Sunderland have won just 13 per cent of their home games (compared to a league average of 44 per cent) and Newcastle have won just 20 per cent of their away matches.
So where’s the value? The trends suggest that Newcastle might just edge it, so backing the Toon Army to win by one goal at 7/2 could be the way to go. Seven of their eight league wins have been by one goal, and while neither team would have boosted your bank balance if you’d backed them each week, Sunderland are far worse. The number crunchers in Power Tower have found that you’d be down 60 per cent if you’d backed Sunderland to win every week, whereas you’d be down just nine per cent backing Newcastle every week.
We’re expecting a level of violence on pitch that’ll make Rambo look soft, but backing Newcastle to draw first blood might just save your bank balance from any damage.
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