Gyan out to restore the Wearside pride

After last season's 5-1 loss to Newcastle, Sunderland's Ghanaian striker tells Jason Mellor revenge matters in today's derby duel

Their supporters will no doubt feel that Sunderland were charitable enough when it came to games against Newcastle last season, but as the North-East gears up with almost indecent haste for its latest turf "wor", Asamoah Gyan has a different kind of philanthropy in mind.

Gyan's late equaliser to salvage an ill-deserved point at the Stadium of Light in January was about as good as it got for the red-and-white half of this at times venomous rivalry between the Premier League's two most northerly outposts. Two months earlier, dare one remind Steve Bruce, the Tyneside-raised Sunderland manager had suffered the low point of more than three decades in the game in the form of a 5-1 humiliation at St James' Park, though ultimately it failed to prevent the Wearsiders from looking down on their noisy neighbours when the dust settled on the campaign in May.

After almost a year at the club, it was only recently that the penny dropped with Gyan as to how acute the embarrassment of those two no-shows must have been for Bruce. "Up until about two weeks ago, I didn't know just how close his links with Newcastle were," the club's record signing confessed. "I'd heard the fans chanting about it, but I didn't really take it on board. Now I realise how tough it must have been for him."

Such is the multinational outlook of the top-flight these days that, last season, Sunderland had three times as many Ghanaians as Geordies in their midst – Gyan being one of a trio of players from the World Cup quarter-finalists. Though John Mensah and Sulley Muntari have since moved on, it sounds like downtown Accra won't be the place to sport a Newcastle shirt for the lunch-time kick-off.

"Ghana is Sunderland," Gyan said. "Everybody in Ghana now watches Sunderland, not Chelsea or Manchester United. With the injury to Michael Essien, I'm the only Ghanaian playing in the Premier League right now, so I tend to be the one they watch. On Saturday, the whole country will be supporting Sunderland." No wonder the club took advantage and announced a link-up with one of the country's top clubs, Asante Kotoko, earlier this summer.

Despite leaving as a teenager to pursue a football career that has taken him to Greece, Italy and France before a £13.4m move to Wearside last September, Gyan has never forgotten where he came from. To underline the fact he plans to utilise his status as one of the African nation's most recognisable faces due to his sporting and musical exploits to launch the Asamoah Gyan Foundation.

"It's something we hope to have up and running in January," he revealed of the project he will oversee in conjunction with his brother, Baffour, following in the footsteps of Essien, John Pantsil, Aaron Mokoena and Nwankwo Kanu among high-profile African footballers who have attempted to put something back into their homeland.

The project's aims are twofold: a more plentiful supply of fresh water for many of the outlying villages in Ghana, in addition to promoting greater access to education for young females, the "girl child" as Gyan puts it, a group often marginalised in parts of the continent.

He explained: "Sometimes, they marry at a young age and find themselves tied to the marital home, without access to education. They need to be helped to gain that access. There's a saying: 'A man can do, but a woman can do better'. We want to help them reach their full potential.

"As for the water situation, I grew up in the city so I didn't come across these issues as much, but it's something that hits the rural areas more. I've seen the problems and I want to help the villages to try and tackle the problems they face. I have a passion to give something back to society, that's my motivation."

Gyan is one of the many footballing converts to Twitter to help keep his fans at home up to date with his latest exploits. With 46,000 followers since joining earlier this year, he has a little way to go to match the 420,000 converts to Joey Barton, whose performance is likely to have a major bearing on Newcastle maintaining their impressive record of just a single defeat on Wearside in more than 30 years.

"I'm on it every day," Gyan, one of the few who doesn't follow Barton, revealed. "Fans contact me every day, even more so in the run-up to the derby. You can sense how emotional they are about it. One told me: 'Score, and you're a legend'.

"I've played in a lot of games where there's a huge rivalry, but this one is special, there's something extraordinary about it that makes it hard to put into words. It's the game everyone has talked about since day one of me arriving here. After what happened last season, we know it's a game we can't afford to lose. They dominated both games last season, but this time it's going to be different. We're prepared, now it's time to deliver."

Top of the tweets

Asamoah Gyan has a healthy Twitter following but who is leading the league?

Manchester United Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) 1.4m followers

Arsenal Jack Wilshere (@JackWilshere) 751,051

Newcastle United Joey Barton (@joey7barton) 423,165

Liverpool Glen Johnson (@glen_johnson) 253,154

Bolton Stuart Holden (@stuholden) 203,902

Everton Phil Neville (@Fizzer18) 162,882

Sunderland Anton Ferdinand (@anton_ferdinand) 85,285

Tottenham Hotspur Aaron Lennon (@AaronLennonpsl) 72,811

Chelsea Florent Malouda (@realflorentm) 55,205

Manchester City Micah Richards (@officialmr2) 41,210

Blackburn Rovers Jason Roberts (@jasonroberts30) 26,641

Swansea City Ashley Williams (@AshWills84) 22,132

Wolves Jody Craddock (@mrjodycraddock) 19,523

Aston Villa Brad Guzan (@bguzan) 18,467

Wigan Athletic Mauro Boselli (@mauroboselli) 17,112

West Brom Peter Odemwingie (@odemwingieP) 16,103

Norwich City Anthony Pilkington (@Pilkington_11) 12,421

Stoke City Asmir Begovic (@asmir1) 9,793

Fulham Dickson Etuhu (@DicksonEtuhu) 8,062

Queen's Park Rangers Daniel Shittu (@danshittu) 2,840

Bruce: I hate every minute of it

The rival managers will enjoy a somewhat different build-up to today's encounter between Sunderland and Newcastle, one which will unfold in front of a 48,000 sell-out at the Stadium of Light.

A candid Steve Bruce admits the enjoyment has waned in his 13-year managerial career: "I don't think I look forward to any games now to be honest." Given his status in a well-rewarded role many would happily do for free, Bruce is aware of the dangers of being seen to moan about his lot too much.

He added: "It's the best job in the world, until a Saturday afternoon, and then I despise every minute of it – unless you win of course. I love the job, and I love the build-up but no one can tell you what it's like."

His Newcastle counterpart, Alan Pardew, feels the same strains, albeit at different times, match days being his most treasured 90 minutes of the week. "I quite enjoy it. I enjoy the game," he said. "It's the Monday to Friday bit, putting out fires that I don't like. Maybe Steve and I should work out a job-share."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?