In September 1987 Sunderland were 12th in the Third Division and Newcastle were 18th in Division One. A good gap right?

Boxing Day in 2019 saw an even bigger gap. Sunderland drew 0-0 at home with a bankrupt Bolton to lie 15th in League 1 while despite getting demolished at Old Trafford,

Bruce’s lucky last minute goals had saw us end the game in tenth in the Premier League. 49 places. It doesn’t look like that will ever be beaten.

Both of those times we lost 4-1 and we played different times but if we had played the same time you can bet , despite the gap, that the first score we would have looked for was SAFC.

Like it or not, and those on Wearside call it an obsession, Sunderland are our biggest rivals and it’s been drummed into us for generations to laugh at them losing and revel in any misfortune.

Just as it has in red and white households ever since people went to Roker Park one week and St James’ next. That’s not an obsession, that’s football. To every love you have to have a hate and to me it doesn’t matter what League Sunderland are in, I will want them to lose. Again, like them with us. I’m ok with that. With the developments of the last fortnight though when if all goes well and to script (it won’t) Newcastle could be chasing chanteuse like Paris Saint Germain or Bellissima clubs like Juventus.

Will the local attraction still do it for us ? Will Sunderland still matter to us ?

It’s happened before. Manchester United were the most hated team in the country (some would say they still are) in the nineties. The skewed Premier League documentary recently on the BBC reminded us why. Media outlets obsessed with every move, glory hunting fans and the most important thing they were the best . That’s when you get hated the most.

For years we hadn’t even registered on the map of Man United but Keegan put us in the position where we not only competing but beating them. We had Ferdinand and Ginola, Sunderland had Premier passions. Man Utd’s eventual overtaking us for the title had them overwhelmingly public enemy number one with us. Sunderland didn’t come close.

Antics like not buying Sugar Puffs because of our involvement saw the red and whites become hilariously irrelevant and they hated it. When you hate something so bad and they don’t care back, it breaks the chain. We broke the chain.

The big test was when Sunderland played Manchester United. The fact we had to think about it would have killed the Mackems. The fact that many Newcastle fans would have wanted Sunderland to beat Man Utd would have been like a dagger through the heart. To young fans brought up with the fever pitch style derby days this actually happened. Most couldn’t bring themselves to say it but some fans wanted cuddly old rubbish

Sunderland to beat bad old Man United. That was the mid nineties, it was heady crazy days we soon knew our place, got a grip and hated Sunderland again.

What were we thinking of?

The thing is when the rivalry becomes that fierce it borders on obsession we are bringing ourselves down to their level.

When the two teams are at each other’s throats the worst it’s because we are fighting relegation together. Derby games this century have been bad because defeat usually means relegation or near enough.

We never battle Sunderland for the European places do we? The more fierce the game is the less healthy both clubs are.

As it stands both clubs could meet next season in the championship but its all ifs and buts.  I still think it’s unlikely.

We might not have Bruce in the near future and the Easter blow up which has cheered us up more than any chocolate egg could, could happen again.

Not at Peterborough like it usually does, they are in a higher league but I’m pinpointing Shrewsbury as the big banter day on April 15th. Put it in your diaries.

But we all know what could happen also.

PIF get sick of all of this being fourth bottom every year and pump in the amount of money that could see us disappearing over the horizon. Even if Sunderland got back to the Premier League they couldn’t touch us.

Playing them would be like an irritant . Would we play our first team? If it’s before the Champions League game against Ajax in Amsterdam I wouldn’t.

Would the lads and lasses going to enjoy the Dutch capital delights on the Tuesday really go out early on the Saturday? I think I might keep myself you know.

In the big scheme of things would you take us beating Barcelona but losing to Sunderland. You wouldn’t? You know you would, you just don’t want to admit it.

Mind you, Sunderland have got a billionaire majority shareholder themselves and everyone on Wearside laughing at the Geordie hyperbole the last fortnight can cast minds back to a few years ago when the (ahem) ill fated takeover by blue chip , real deal big boys, computer giant Dell was going through , we got told that we were going to face M’Bappe in the next derby. He gets around that kid.

Feels like he’s made more derby appearances than Jeff Clarke.

Ok the last few days have saw some idiotic comments come out on message boards and Sunderland fans now have a keen interest in awful goings on in war torn Yemen, but you know what?

Sunderland fans haven’t been the worst. The tantrums of Tottenham, Everton, West Ham, Boro (that flag? ha ha ) and Man Utd fans have over took anything I’ve saw over there.

You know why because they would have done exactly the same thing, goaded us about potential signings and we would have just done exactly the same as them…

”find country which Saudis at war with, siri”

I hope it doesn’t get lost in it all. Sunderland and Newcastle need each other. When you’re swanning around in the coliseum in Rome think about when no one gave a toss about us .

Sunderland did. We owe them that much . Better the devil you know.

SCOTT ROBSON