Newcastle travels to the Stadium of Light to face Roy Keane's Sunderland tomorrow morn. For the Magpie's the two consecutive draws have created a modest celebration and it appears that the free-fall has slowed and the club not enters a long slow phase of recovery. Of course, with the club mired in second to last position of the table the "process" of adding victories to the column must begin or the the talk of "relegation" will become a constant theme.
The rise to a mid-table Premier League respectability for Sunderland is nothing short of stunning and without question credit goes to Mr. Roy Keane, a manager who I am not alone with having infinite respect for. Without bales of cash to work with he manages to impart the level of intensity he played with on his players and I couldn't be happier for the good people of the area.
That merriment aside, Newcastle has a match to play and Sunderland is facing a daunting task of overturning a streak of winless at home against the Magpies in twenty-eight years. If we are to begin to "add up" motivational tactics, strike one for The Black Cats as they cherish the opportunity to end that streak and send their rivals a strong message of territorial superourity.
While I have significant issues of Joe Kinnear's understanding of the social responsibility of professionals in the media, he is deserving of credit for rallying the club and unifying them during a time of turmoil. . There is no need to go in length of the sordid details of his rather public rant but he should be recognized for walking into a lions pit when few managers would even consider the situation and stemming the tide. In two successive weeks, Newcastle has been involved in matches where they looked either down for the count or completely inferior but each time, through grit and determination, they fought back to earn a point.
On the injury front Sunderland heads into the match with Kenwyne Jones set to return and he will feature alongside Djibril Cissé to make a very formidable striking tandem. Dwight Yorke is set to return as well and the crafty veteran still can be a deadly goal-poacher. David Healy is equally a threat and as he returns to form will press for a starting duty. Their are most likely to employ a midfield of Kieran Richardson, Dean Whitehead, Grant Leadbitter and Steed Malbranque that isn't shy on sturdy tackling and will challenge every ball. Roy Keane has built a solid back wall of Wales international Danny Collins, Anton Ferdinand , George McCartney and Pascal Chimbonda with Scotland's number one Craig Gordon walling-up the goal. Newcastle will be without Michael Owen for the match and are "wait and see" on Jonás Gutiérrez shoulder condition.
I will report on the match as it concludes.