When Two Tribes Go To Wear…

Sunderland. Derby Day.

It’s not even 10am on a Sunday morning, and yet the city centre looks more like 11pm on a Friday. Sky Sports may have moved kick off to an hour not generally associated with getting hammered and singing songs about the demise of Steven Taylor, but this hasn’t stopped the locals from giving it their best shot. The red and white masses have not only filled every bar available (the first opening at 8am), but spilled onto the streets in huge numbers. I thought arriving at this time would mean a few hours of waiting around for the atmosphere to build, but it turned out I was extremely late to the party.

I work my way to the bar in Gatsby, the bar with the earliest opening time in town. Just as I reach the front, the televisions dotted around the bar show one of Kevin Phillip’s many goals against Newcastle. The place absolutely erupts, a goal from a decade ago on a DVD player greeted with a louder roar than many of the weekends goals across the Premier League would have received inside the stadium. I knew that Sunderland and Newcastle hated each other, but it quickly became apparent that I had vastly underestimated the ferociousness of the Tyne Wear derby. It’s hatred on a scale unimaginable pretty much anywhere else in England, and things were only just getting started.

Despite the fact that Sunderland went into this game with just one point and rock bottom of the league, this seemed to annoy them far less than the fact that Steven Taylor was still alive. “Steven Taylor, we wish you were dead” and “We’re all gonna have a party…when Steven Taylor dies” are two of the most popular chants in the build up to the game, along with “Have you ever seen a Mackem punch a horse?” and suggestions as to where Alan Pardew and the Toon Army should go.

The statue of FA Cup winning manager Bob Stokoe is the focus point for Sunderland fans outside the ground, with the majority of fans that passed by stopping to pat his boots for good luck. One elderly fan, who would almost certainly have been at the game when they defeated Leeds in 1973, pauses for a moment. WIth a tear forming in his eye, he says “If you’re watching today Bob, we could really do with your help mate.” The statue of Stokoe had a strange impact on the crowd, with every fan that passed by falling silent, if only for a moment. Sunderland’s glory days may seem like a distant memory on current form, but if nothing else, the frozen in time image of Stokoe’s celebration allowed them to dream once more. As it was to turn out by full time, sometimes dreams do come true.

Having met a friend from Twitter who had arranged my ticket, we made our way into the ground with around 40 minutes to go before kickoff. Such is my disdain for the current state of English football, it is very rare that I even bother to watch a Premier League game on TV. It quickly became clear that Sunderland vs. Newcastle was not your usual mundane sanitised English fixture, with an atmosphere comparable to anything I experienced at the world famous Milan derby or with the Galatasaray Ultras. A section of the concourse had been turned into a Sunderland AFC moshpit, with beer, bodies and limbs flying through the air as the Mackems got ready for their hated rivals in their own unique style.

The history of the fixture was remembered in detail, with songs about Kevin Phillips (positive) and Alan Shearer (not so positive) both featuring extensively in the home fans repertoire. This derby can make or break a career, and a winning performance can see you go down in local folklore. With kickoff rapidly approaching,  it was time to find out who would feature in the drunken songs of the next generation.

Just as with my visit to Feyenoord (incidentally, there is a friendship between these two clubs, with a Feyenoord flag being displayed at the front of the stand at the Stadium of Light), I was located in a different part of the stadium to those who invited me, but they were able to get me into the heart of the atmosphere with little bother. In fact, there were roughly three people to every seat in this part of the stadium, with fans packed in and creating a tremendous atmosphere. It was further proof that there is a real need for safe standing in England, if only on a small scale to start with.

The teams enter the field, with Sunderland receiving the tremendous support you would expect in a derby match, with Newcastle receiving the traditional abuse, whistles and boos that come with being an away team entering a cauldron of hate. If this was all pretty standard, what came next certainly wasn’t. I have witnessed club anthems at Inter, Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund to name just a few, and this was just as loud as the noise produced by 100,000 inside the Camp Nou. Liverpool are (rightly) world famous for their rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone, but when they sing it like this, Sunderland and Wise Men Say should certainly be mentioned in the same breath as The Kop.

The game kicks off and the atmosphere somehow goes up yet another notch, the Sunderland fans behind the goal waving large flags which were similar to those employed by European Ultras, it was extremely refreshing to see a club whose supporters are more imaginative when it comes to flags. I think we have all seen enough England flags with the club initials and ‘Big Baz on tour’ in the top corner to last a lifetime, and Sunderland are certainly ahead of the game in this aspect of their support.

Sunderland drive forward in the early stages, inspired by the support their terrifically loyal supporters are offering them. They win a corner on the left side, which is whipped in by Adam Johnson. The marking from Newcastle is poor, allowing the ball to reach the head of Steven Fletcher. From such close range there was only ever going to be one outcome, and the ball flies past Krul and into the back of the net. There is a split second of silence while the stadium takes in what has just happened, before an eruption of joy explodes around the ground. People fly through the air, a sprawling mass of humanity spilling across several rows of seats. The friend who got my ticket disappears into a sea of bodies, as people fall all over the place, seats shatter and wallets, phones and keys are lost forever.

One Sunderland fan in my row celebrates so wildly and is so overcome with emotion that he runs down the stairs to be sick, narrowly making it in time and avoiding a ‘no puke no party’ situation developing in the absence of pyro. ‘Random’ searches had been conducted before the game, with the stewards picking me out of the crowd to look for smokebombs or flares. It’s good to know that the stewards at the Stadium of Light are fans of the website, at least.

The players celebrate just as wildly as the fans, with Fletcher shown a yellow card for entering the crowd. It’s a stupid rule, especially in a game with this much at stake and so much passion on show. After scoring a goal in this fixture a player could be forgiven for running naked to the Newcastle end, before indicating that he had done unpleasant things to the mothers of everyone in the away section.  The celebrations go on for some time, as the Sunderland fans try to find their missing friends or personal items, while bruised and bleeding shins are compared after smashing into seats and various other solid items. I didn’t see it personally, but a message on a Sunderland forum reports that someone cracked a rib celebrating the goal and didn’t go to hospital until after the game. It’s not difficult to believe.

Sunderland are dominant in these glorious opening moments, pouring the pressure on the visitors and looking more like a side towards the top of the table than the one which was rock bottom. Despite the spectacular noise and the best efforts of the players, the second goal does not arrive, and Newcastle begin to work their way back into the game as the clock ticks on towards the thirty minute mark. The tackles are flying in on both sides, with the referee sensibly keeping his card in his pocket on a number of occasions where it may usually have been brandished during a normal fixture. Only Yohan Cabaye joins Fletcher in the book, for a fairly horrendous challenge on Jack Colback.

On top for the first time in the game, Newcastle look to take advantage of the situation. They win a couple of corners and free kicks in threatening positions, but cannot convert the superiority into a goal. Ben Arfa and Williamson threaten on occasions, but in truth the Black and Whites have not performed. Half time arrives, greeted with a roar of approval which sounds more like Sunderland have won the game, never mind simply making it to the break with a 1 – 0 lead. The quality hasn’t been the highest on the pitch, but the support off of it has been unquestionable. You could forgive the supporters 15 minutes to sit down and relax with a pie, but they weren’t having any of it. The singing continues throughout the break, with flags waved in the air and drunken dances precariously performed on top of plastic seats.

The second half kicks off, and there is a new determination about Newcastle, both in the stands and on the field. For the first time the visitors could be clearly heard, with the team responding to the vocal support and buoyed by the introduction of Cisse for the ineffective Sissoko . The pressure built and built on Sunderland, who seemed to have lost all the confidence they showed in the first half. Ben Arfa almost scores the equaliser after 15 minutes of the second period, but has to settle for an assist instead. He finds Mathieu Debuchy, who makes no mistake and scores his first goal in English football, followed by a celebration that had clearly been planned on the training ground some time ago.

Paolo Di Canio’s knee slide provided the iconic image of the famous 0 – 3 victory earlier this year, and it was one which had obviously stuck in the mind of the Newcastle players, as they sprinted to the dugouts and performed knee slides of their own. The away end goes absolutely bonkers, with the top tier of the stand visibly shaking as the shirtless Geordies celebrate wildly, while a number of undercover away fans in a corporate box are discovered after breaking their cover and celebrating the goal. Sunderland fans surge up the stand to have a quiet word with the intruders, with the police rapidly stepping in to ensure a serious incident doesn’t develop.

Having finally got back on level terms, Newcastle were looking to inflict yet another defeat on their hated foes. Cabaye and Santon both have two opportunities to give the visitors the lead, as Sunderland start to lose their heads and make mistakes. Poyet makes substitutions to attempt to change the tide of the game, Cattermole replaced by Ki and Fabio Borini coming on for Adam Johnson. Fabio Borini. Remember that name…

Newcastle also make a change, and it is one to strike fear into the hearts of Sunderland. Shola Ameobi has scored numerous goals in derby matches, and his appearance in place of Loic Remy drew a number of groans from the home supporters. It seemed inevitable that Ameobi would pop up to score a winner and heap the pressure on Sunderland further still, as a number of attempts for the Magpies fly narrowly wide or just can’t find the touch which would turn the ball into the net and seal the victory.

Less than ten minutes remain now, and Sunderland are hanging on for dear life. The fans continue to believe in their side despite a Newcastle goal appearing closer and closer, as they cheer every tackle and roar with appreciation at every clearance. The clock is ticking down and it appears as though the spoils will be shared, leaving Sunderland bottom of the league and going in to November without a Premier League victory. But sometimes, the Gods of football decide that a team has suffered for too long, and decides that a reward is needed for the wasted weekends and the disappointing journeys home after yet another defeat. With minutes to go, Sunderland produced one of the most magic moments of all.

Sunderland have the ball some way out from the goal after Newcastle waste possession. It is played forward to American forward Jozy Altidore, who controls the ball superbly and touches it into the path of Borini. The substitute takes a touch, before drilling an unstoppable shot from long range into the back of the net past the despairing dive of Tim Krul. The noise is like nothing I have ever heard in England before, as the Sunderland fans react with a mixture of joy, amazement and relief. Chaos reigns, as the celebrating masses let out their months of frustration in one euphoric moment. Several grown men around me are in tears, as bodies fall to the ground as far as the eye can see. A fan leaps from his seat in the row in front on top of me, with both of us falling backwards over a seat into the back row of the stadium. Bodies appear from all over the place, a pile of sheer Wearside joy.




Scenes of joy at Sunderland

There are just seconds left, but there is almost time for a cruel twist, as Newcastle are presented with a perfect chance to equalise. Football can be cruel, but not that cruel, and the Mackems survive. The full time whistle comes, bringing with it an extended celebration from both players and fans alike. All they had done on paper was move from 20th to 19th, but this fixture means so, so much more than three points. The defining moment of the celebration is a second rendition of Wise Men Say, sung with a passion that showed just what this game means in this part of the country. Sunderland’s fans have been magnificent throughout, and the fact that they were provided with a moment of pure ecstasy shows that sometimes, just sometimes, supporters get exactly what they crave and what they deserve.



Heading out of the ground, the silent reverence which had been present around the Stokoe statue before the game has been replaced with jubilant scenes of victory. Supporters have scaled the statue, sitting on the shoulders of their former hero while saluting the exploits of their new icons. On the day that Lou Reed passed away, Sunderland fans had their very own perfect day.



This is what it means. (Picture courtesy of Twitter user @Frsgrd)

Posted on October 28, 2013, in General. Bookmark the permalink. 66 Comments.

  1. What a cracking read. Brought back the memories and atmosphere of the day perfectly! !

    • the best yet…get the rest of the country to read this…..match of the day ….should take note, as well as those clowns on sky sports panel Saturday…please come again…cheers..ftm..

      • Well said man, Sky Sports only give a fuck about subscriptions, not passion. Just because neither club is competing for European qualification, doesn’t mean that the rivalry is any less intense.

  2. Aaaaamazing read and to hear you ‘get it’. gave me goose bumps. you need to come every year 🍀

  3. it was even better than that

  4. Absolutely brilliant read, gave me goosebumps brought back the atmosphere brilliantly

  5. Are you on twitter ?

  6. I’m glad you spent it with us!

  7. Incredible read. I’m in the USA for a few months at uni so I had to give up my season ticket this year, so reading this gives me goosebumps! Nearly lost my voice watching the game on my laptop…and I was the only one in the room…

  8. Brilliant

  9. Excellent read, sometimes a thousand words say what a picture can’t.

  10. sarah wilson-day

    Excellent piece, brilliant images. Love the one of the fan with the raised arms standing on the concrete. Does @fsgrd have a facebook? I dont have twitter, would love to use share this image on my fb

  11. If you thought the atmosphere at this was amazing, you should come when we play them at their ground … truly electrifying atmosphere like no other!

  12. I’ve been to one derby, where I celebrated like a child when we went one up, knowing that we’d lose. Yesterday was unique. My word, I’m jealous of your presence, but at thank God you can write so well. The stuff blogs are made of, bravo.

  13. Absolutely cracking read mate . Described the game perfectly ! Brings memories of how I felt when borini banged that in ! FTM !!!

  14. iv have now read this 3 X now and it still makes me have goosebumps ov yesterday and i still am so proud and have a tear in my eye……well done boys what the author wrote was the most exciting piece but you just had to be there………..awesome….

  15. Cracking read, goosebumps for the entire thing! Like u say its more than just 3 points, its more than just a game!!! Ha’way the lads! FTM!

  16. This made me want to come home!!!! It’s never the same atmosphere over here in oz! I got goosebumps reading it!

  17. You forgot to mention all those lovely songs they were singing about Gary Speed, a gentleman and family man. You know, the ones about him hanging? Classy lot them Sunderland fans. A well structured/written piece other than this convenient omission though.

    • I genuinely didn’t hear a single song about Gary Speed all day. As a Wales fan home and away, I would have walked out if I did so.

      • Codswallop, crap, utter Geordie shite. Get a life you lost lost and it’s just bile. We’ve been there before but we don’t rant on and come out with peurile remarks like that bollocks so get a life.

    • Your talking rubbish you bitter Geordie , not one song about Gary Speed.

      • Well said I never heard any songs about Gary Speed rip a great footballer … bitter Geordie indeed …

    • Wah wah wah. Go and punch a horse you mag flogbag.

    • nobody sang about gary speed,,, yes steven taylor.i was at the back of the south stand brilliant day and good read ftm

    • No Gary Speed songs were sung inside the ground, typical bitter mag drivvle spewing out of your mouth here… show me the evidence that any fans chanted this inside the ground and I’ll withdraw my accusation but we both know that you’re lying and you’ve got a face like a smacked arse because you lot thought you’d just turn up and win…you were outfought on the pitch and outsung on the terraces, the goon army were like church mice until they scored and then briefly they sang. I honestly doubt you were even there, it would surprise me if you were…I’d be willing to bet you’re not even from Newcastle, probably from County Durham yet still refer to yourself as a “Geordie” and that you love “tha toon”


  18. fantastic to read as a mackem, a non biased review on the day and the atmosphere and what it means to the fans. Also brilliant knowing you felt the same emotions as us without any links to the club. FTM!

  19. Fantastic read, and a true account of a fantastic day ………… still cant believe that Parjew came out with “we should have won”………. The blokes crazy !!

  20. and never heard any Gary Speed songs …..

  21. Shows who are the best supporters in the premier league

  22. A fitting tribute to a perfect day!! Words can’t explain how I felt when that finally whistle blew! To be able to stand next to my dad who instilled my love and respect for our football club and sir bob is a priceless memory that money can’t buy!! Get in lads I’m still crying now lol thank you for your kind words a lot of people misunderstand how much it means to us but you clearly don’t!!!

    • There was not one song about gary speed you muppet. It was probably you singing it in your head trying to block out the fact not one of your team stood up for your football club on the pitch.

  23. Absolutely brilliant read!

  24. What a fantastic read… made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and brought tears to my eyes all over again… Felt like I was back sitting in my seat. Your more than welcome to come back!

  25. on a visit to the Stadium one must expect that if Sunderland score that they will most likely be jumped on by complete strangers, man love is allowed and accepted at these times, especially when playing the jordy’s 😉

  26. Wow brilliant read, shows exactly how passionate us fans are , pitty those on motd don’t realise it too! You should come again 🙂

  27. I was at the match, and we did sing about Gary Speed. He bottled it and took the cowards way out. The Geordies got what they deserved and so did he.

    • You’re an embarrassment to the mackem nation. You’re parents would be ashamed of you to be proud of such a thing!

    • All I heard from thr jordys was sunderland was a shit hole, obviously there were no jordys from Blakelaw, Cowgate, Kenton, South Gosforth, Benwell, Sandyford St Anthonys, Wolsinham, Gateshead, Fenham, Wallsend, Noth Shields, Eshintin in the crowd Bunch of skip rats

    • Michael Weese? Geordie in disguise in think talking shite, reference to Weese keys by any chance? Fuck off

    • You are a disgrace with such comments … crawl back under your stone you moron you do not represent our club your pathetic …

  28. A brilliant write up, you grasped the passion and described the day perfectly..,,I didn’t hear any songs about Gary Speed, if I had I would have told them to shut up, he was a top footballer and person… I would like to think Sunderland supporters are above that type of crap.
    I only hope we have more days like this, thank you for the write up .
    Ha’way the Lads !!

  29. Great read brought it all back we were in the town at 10 it was jumping then great day not a Gary Speed song sung the blokes well respected here

  30. The stadium wasn’t even full coz couldn’t sell all tickets shows the passion, now coz Sunderland won its like this was the biggest and best game ever… Shows how much Sunderland fans hate newcastle fans to the point they would rather see newcastle get beat than win their own games…

  31. good on sunderland on the win it will help them get threw playing championship football next season and yes there were songs about gary speed

  32. What a great read. It makes a change to hear an unbiased review. Been a
    Season ticket holder for nearly 40 years and am a female and that is one of
    the best atmospheres at a game I have known. Second goal totally unexpected
    so made it even better

    • William Elliott

      No songs were sang about Gary Speed thats a Fact and its a Fact that its just sad and bitter Geordies on here that are gutted that they got turned over by their greatest rivals…AGAIN and AGAIN by a wonder goal!!!! Just be gracious in defeat….oh thats right..you lot cant be..you get beat and decide to smash phone boxes up…shop windows..attack Police…punch Horses…burn wheelie bins etc complete biggots springs to mind!!!!!! Regarding the match…awesome 3 points that was well deserved and won by a wonder strike from Borini…class…bragging rights belong to the Mackems once again…always 2-1 isnt it lol…this was a great read from a Neutral Fan..brilliant stuff FTM

      • Love all the bitter skunks on here mind! clinging on to stories of Gary speed chants!! All as bitter as pardwho, bad losers. Good read this. Hope we build on the result! Ftm

  33. I watched in my local in Coventry and had bored the locals for two weeks prior talking about the match.its hard to explain what this games means if your not a fan of either club but fair play the pub was packed and the crack was brilliant and the round cost me £80 after but I did back us at 2-1 so no damage to wallet lol.best Sunday in years.

  34. Duncan Ndekerere

    Its realy emotional moment for the Mackems.

  35. Fantastic read, great atmosphere in the ground that oh so special day. Check out on Youtube ‘loudest fans ever’ think Sunderland fans at Wembley 1985 are near the top, hairs in back of neck job

  36. Unlike any other derby. My Dad went to Roker Park back in the day as his mate said he tickets. My Dad, being a Newcastle fan, assumed it was in the away end though upon arriving at the ground he discovered he had to sit with the Sunderland fans. There was nine of them that day, though my Dad was one of only three that hid his euphoria well enough to not be booted down to the bottom of the stand and taken out by stewards! The rest is history as Liam O’Brien carved his name in to Newcastle folklore, and chants, with a beautifully struck free kick to bag the Toon the win. My Dad, containing his celebration, could only turn to a dismayed Sunderland fan and say “You’ve got to admit, it was a bloody good free kick”. Though Sky would like to have you believe that the biggest derbies in England are the likes of the North London derby or the Merseyside derby, I give credit where credits due, you Mackems don’t half make good people to despise and you make a brilliant derby day!

    On a more serious note, I have tremendous respect for Sunderland fans. The video on YouTube of Sunderland fans paying their respects and signing for Sir Bobby when he passed away was one of the more tear jerking moments of my life, and made me realise that you’re not so bad after all!

    Long time Toon supporter/sufferer

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