All eyes on Newcastle and Sunderland - the rivals with nothing to lose but their integrity

 

A united front in the North-east of England. That alone feels like something worth talking about. Two cities with a legendary rivalry will decide whether Arsène Wenger, for the first time in 16 seasons, fails to take Arsenal into the Champions' League as Tottenham pip them for fourth place in the Premier League table.

Once the relief that both Sunderland and Newcastle would begin next season in the division had subsided, and the odd loose-lipped quip had eventually settled, a lot of pennies began to drop about the importance of the two games involving those clubs this weekend. A rough estimate would suggest there are £30 million reasons why Arsenal and Tottenham fans need to know they will face two clubs who have not already left, mentally at least, for a beach in the Bahamas.

But to that query came an emphatically reasurring riposte from Alan Pardew and Paolo Di Canio.

Both men benefited hugely from the victory Swansea produced at Wigan with three games of the League season remaining. That win, ultimately, was just about as significant as any either side has produced themselves in the fight to stay in the top flight. Swansea had nothing to play for. Wigan's Premier League future was on the line. Di Canio rarely misses an opportunity to espouse the virtues of English football and in the aftermath of that game, he met a kindred spirit in Newcastle's manager, Pardew. Both men spoke of the League's integrity. Swansea had nothing to play for and won. As Di Canio said, it would not happen in every country.

From that starting point Sunderland must produce something at Tottenham today. They will be missing five key players in Lee Cattermole, Steven Fletcher, Stéphane Sessègnon and Craig Gardner (all injured) and Danny Rose (who is a Spurs employee), but their manager has already cancelled the holidays of those players who planned to fly straight from London after the game. Instead they will return to Sunderland. Initially it was for another two days' training. If the performance at White Hart Lane is unacceptable, Di Canio will keep them training for a further week.

"Intelligence, integrity and respect are important," he said. "Even in the middle of the season it's easy to relax, to give a game away, so you can imagine how easy it is at the end of the season. We have to make sure there is no unprofessional behaviour. We can lose against Tottenham because they are a top side but there is a way to lose a game. I want to win if it's possible or draw because we have something to prove to ourselves. We have to create things for ourselves.

"If they don't deliver, it could be two days or six, seven or eight [extra training], but it will be two days minimum, even if we win five-nil. We have to change the mentality at this club. We have to change our brain. It means giving our best every time, respecting others."

Pardew was genuinely taken aback by the reaction to his joke after Newcastle's victory at Loftus Road, when he said the team could lose four-nil at home to Arsenal today because safety was assured. Now the message is more emphatic. "Integrity is a factor of the Premier League but I don't think about that," he said. "We have 11 professional players on the pitch, all their families will be there because it's the last day of the season and all our fans will expect us to win.

"We have so much on this game that it's irrelevant to talk about integrity. I made a naive joke – that's all it was. We also have the chance to get ten home wins, which is a big incentive for us."

But of more concern is the lack of form which both North-east teams take into the final game. Sunderland have not won in three matches and lost 6-1 in their last away fixture, at Aston Villa. Newcastle have won one of their last five, and in their two previous home games were beaten 6-0 by Liverpool and 3-0 by Sunderland. It promises to be an intriguing final day.

News
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
businessUber, Snapchat and Facebook founders among those on the 2015 Forbes Billionaire List
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
News
Homer’s equation, in an episode in 1998, comes close to the truth, as revealed 14 years later
science
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003