The Tyne-Wear derby describes the rivalry between the two clubs of Newcastle United and Sunderland. It is one of the most hotly contested rivalries in English football, focused on two cities that are located some 11 miles apart in the North-East of England. It is so-named because each city has a major river running through it – The Tyne (Newcastle) and The Wear (Sunderland).
Once an industrial heartland, not only of Britain but of its Empire as well, the North-East of England has been in decline for decades, as much of its manufacturing capacity has been undermined by technological change, cheap foreign competition, and the depletion of natural resources. Gone are the docks and shipyards, mines, and steelworks which use to provide hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs. Now it is area which has the highest unemployment rate in England at 5.5%, the highest concentration of food banks, and, in the poorest areas, is rife with social problems and neglect. This is where Brexit attracted, and still attracts, the greatest support.
Despite all this, the area is a hotbed of football, and has produced some of the finest footballers and managers of the post-war era, including Jackie Milburn, Alan Shearer, Chris Waddle, Paul Gascoigne, Sir Bobby Robson, the Charlton Brothers and Brian Clough. Whilst many of them played for Newcastle, others like Clough had a deep affinity with Sunderland, and played in their fair share of local derbies.
However, like many rivalries in England, the roots of the antagonism between the two clubs and cities go a long way back, and need to be understood to place the current enmity between the supporters into its correct historical context.
The antagonism between the cities of Newcastle and Sunderland dates back to the English Civil War of the 17th century, which pitted Royalist forces against those supporting the Parliamentary cause. Merchants in Newcastle were seen to profit under the Royalist regime at the expense of their neighbours, causing Sunderland to become strongly pro-Parliamentarian.
Forty years later the two cities found themselves on opposites sides again during the Jacobin rebellion which aimed to restore the Scottish Stuart family to the throne. Sunderland sided with the Stuarts, whilst Newcastle was in favour of the ruling Hanover line. That era also gave birth to the names by which inhabitants of the two cities are widely known – Geordie, a diminutive of George, the name of the Hanover king, and Mackem because Sunderland played host to the Scottish “blue mac” army.
Sunderland’s Golden Age
Unfortunately for their fans, none are alive today who can remember the club’s Golden Age in terms of trophy success which came well over a hundred years ago. Founded originally by a group of school teachers in 1879, they first joined the Football League in the 1890 – 91 season. The following season they won the league title for the time, and then when on to win it twice more in the following three seasons. They were to win it twice more in the years leading up to the First World War, making them one of the most successful clubs of that period.
After a gap of nearly 25 years, Sunderland won the league again in 1935- 1936, and followed that up with the first of their two FA Cup successes in 1937. Sadly, that was to be the last major honour won by the club with the exception of the 1973 FA Cup. Reaching the final as a second division club they were given little chance against Leeds United, then the dominant force in the English game. However, a solitary goal from Ian Porterfield, and a stunning double save by goalkeeper Jim Montgomery from Trevor Cherry and Peter Lorimer provided the underdogs with a famous day at Wembley.
Newcastle’s Pre-war Championships and FA Cup years
Just as with their neighbours, there are no fans of Newcastle still living who can remember when they were a dominant force in the land either. Founded in 1892, they began their professional life playing in the Second Division, playing their first competitive match against Woolwich Arsenal.
They finally gained admittance to the First Division in 1898-99, and, within six years, had built a team that went on to dominate English football for almost a decade, with a style of play built on a short, attractive passing game. They won the league title in 1905, 1907,and 1909, and then enjoyed FA Cup success for the first time in 1910.
They found it tougher going after the war but did win the FA Cup again in 1924 and 1937, and the league title in 1927. After the Second World War, and inspired by players like the legendary striker Jackie Milburn, they became an FA Cup team, lifting the trophy three times in 5 years. However, it was to be another 14 years before they enjoyed trophy success again, winning the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup after beating Hungarian side Újpest in the two-legged final.
However, apart from Second Division/Championship success, no further trophies have been added to the trophy cabinet at St. James Park since.
The biggest margin of victory in the history of the fixture came in December 1908 when Sunderland travelled to St. James Park, Newcastle, and emerged victorious with a 9 -1 victory. It remains Sunderland’s biggest every away win, and Newcastle’s heaviest defeat. However, Newcastle had the last laugh that season – they won the league title, whilst Sunderland had to be content with third.
Newcastle’s biggest winning margin of 6 -1 has been achieved twice, once at home in 1920, and away in 1955.
The Last Time They Met
The last time they met in a competitive fixture was in March 2016 in the Premier League, with the match ending in a 1 -1 draw, Jermaine Defoe putting Sunderland ahead, and Aleksandar Mitrović equalising for the home side.
That season, Newcastle were relegated from the Premier League, whilst Sunderland, led by Sam Allardyce, escaped by the skin of their teeth. However, the following season, it was Sunderland who were relegated, with Newcastle passing them on the way up, as they were crowned Champions of the Championship. Worse was to follow for the Wearside club the following campaign, as they finished rock-bottom of the EFL Championship, suffering back-to-back relegations as they dropped into League One.
This season they are vying for promotion back to the Championship. However, even if they manage that feat, with Newcastle seemingly safe from relegation from the Premier League this season, unless the two sides get drawn against each other in either of the two domestic cup competitions next campaign, it will be at least a year until one of the fiercest rivalries in football can be renewed, on the pitch at least.
Managers and Players
Only one man has taken charge of both clubs. Sam Allardyce, who played for Sunderland at the start of his itinerant playing career, managed Newcastle during the 2007 – 2008 season. Seven years’ later he returned to the North-East to manage Sunderland, and successfully steered them away from relegation before leaving to take-up his ill-fated role as England manager.
Another Sunderland manager with close Newcastle ties was Bob Stokoe. Famous for his dash on the Wembley pitch in celebration after the 1973 Cup Final triumph, replete with trilby hat and mackintosh, Stokoe had won the cup with Newcastle as a player 18 years before.
Unlike many other club rivalries, though, there have been many examples of players who have ended-up wearing the strips of both sides.
Andy Cole: Although now best remembered for his time at Manchester United, it was his spell at Newcastle under Kevin Keegan that first brought him to national prominence, before signed for Alex Ferguson’s United in what was a record British transfer fee at the time. He later played a handful of games for Sunderland in the twilight of his career.
Bobby Moncur: Scottish international Moncur was captain of Newcastle in the last 1960s, and is currently the last man to skipper them to a trophy. He spent 12 years at Newcastle as a player and, when he left in 1974, promptly signed on with their local rivals with whom he spent a further two years.
Chris Waddle: Waddle made his name with Newcastle, before high profile transfers to Tottenham Hotspur, Marseille, and perhaps more prosaically, Sheffield Wednesday. However, he did stage a brief return to professional football in 1997, managing seven appearances for Sunderland.
Newcastle’s home ground since 1892 has been St. James Park, and with a current capacity of just over 53,000 it is the eight largest football stadium in England. In 2018, a panel of experts voted it the best stadium in Europe, once factors such as atmosphere, the size of the average crowd, and proximity to Newcastle city centre were taken in to account.
Sunderland have had no fewer than eight stadiums in their history, beginning with Blue House Field in Hendon and taking in six other venues before they moved to Roker Park in 1898. Home for nearly a 100 years, it was deemed inadequate in light of the Taylor report which recommended all-seater stadiums, and they moved to their present ground, the Stadium of Light, in 1997.
Controversies and Crowd Problems
Like all such matches, the Tyne-Wear derby has seen its share of confrontations and disorderly conduct. In 1901, for example, the match at St. James Park had to be abandoned when 120,000 people tried to get into a ground that had a capacity at the time of only 30,000. Rioting on the streets of Newcastle ensued until order could be restored.
Almost a 100 years to the day, Sunderland were leading their Championship play-off semi-final when Newcastle fans invaded the pitch hoping to force the abandonment of the game. And, ten years later, it was the turn of Sunderland fans to invade the pitch at the Stadium of Light, with a 17-year old fan pushing over the Newcastle goalkeeper Steve Harper.
Bud, the Police Horse
Although incidents of violent clashes and disorderly conduct are not as widespread between the supporters of these clubs as with many other rivalries, one incident in 2013 garnered international attention. Following a 3-0 defeat at home to Sunderland, a number of Newcastle fans rioted on the streets of their own city. One of them, Barry Rogerson, fuelled by alcohol and angry with his team, punched a police horse called Bud in the head after the match, with the image going viral on YouTube. Bud made a full recovery, but Rogerson was handed a 12-month jail sentence for violent disorder.
Most Derby Appearances
Most Derby Goals
Neither team has enjoyed success at the top level for a number of years. Whilst each has enjoyed success at Second Division/Championship level, you have to go back to 1936 for the last time that Sunderland won the League, and a further 9 years further for Newcastle’s last title. Equally, Newcastle have now won the FA Cup since 1955, whilst Sunderland last clinched it as a second division side in 1973. That win against Leeds United was, in fact, the last time, apart from Second Division titles, that either side won what may be termed an elite trophy, with Newcastle’s last triumph coming in 1969 in the now defunct Inter Cities Fairs Cup.
Head to Head:
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Andy is an exiled English football fan living in Cyprus. He loves all sports but football is his abiding passion, and he still has dreams every now and then about scoring the winning goal in a Wembley Cup Final, even though his playing days are long gone. He follows most major leagues, across Europe at least, and has a favoured team in each. When he’s not watching, listening, reading or downloading podcasts about football, he spend his time worrying about his beloved Arsenal.