Keane faces'curse of Cummins'

Sunderland aiming to end their 28-year hoodoo by beating Newcastle at home
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The Independent Football

The Sunderland manager, Roy Keane, was an eight-year-old in Cork, the present chairman, Niall Quinn, was a 13-year-old Gaelic footballer in Dublin and Joe Kinnear was a 33-year-old manager trying his luck, as he said, "in Dubai or Doncaster". As for Joey Barton, he was not born. Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, the economy was in recession and "Going Underground" was No 1. It was April 1980, the last time Sunderland beat Newcastle United at home.

"If someone had said that, 28 years later, no one would have done since what I did that afternoon, I wouldn't have believed it," said the man who scored the only goal that afternoon, Stan Cummins, speaking from his home in Kansas.

"You've got to be almost 40 to remember my goal and if Sunderland don't do it this time, then it could stretch to 30 years. That would be frightening. Thirty years, that's a whole generation of fans starved of such a special feeling.

"I don't think there's a statistic like it in any other derby. Just imagine Spurs not beating Arsenal at White Hart Lane for 28 years."

Funnily enough, Sunderland had not won at Tottenham for 30 years until August, but as Keane said this week: "We're a different team, a different club and these records are there to be smashed."

Outwardly, though, Keane does not share the Sunderland obsession with beating Newcastle at home. "If you said to me would you like to beat Newcastle and lose the next 10 games, I'd say 'no'. This idea that Saturday is make or break for both teams is nonsense.

"But we know what it means to the supporters. They have seen bad times and keep coming back. I am sure unemployment is pretty high around here. I see that Nissan have stopped making a couple of cars. We know it's tough going and we have a massive role to play. It's like at Celtic, football is their lives in a sense. That's Sunderland. I saw Mick McCarthy interviewed on the day he got the job and he said Sunderland was 'a proper football club'. I know exactly what he means. It is a proper football club."

Supporter hunger could be seen at Eppleton Colliery Welfare on Wednesday night when hundreds were turned away from Sunderland's reserve game against Wigan. Kenwyne Jones, playing for the first since June, was the attraction. Just under 3,000 were allowed in. Jones's potential participation is one of the big calls for Keane, who has striking options which Newcastle manager Kinnear does not have.

Kinnear's big call is the volatile Barton, now likely to start because of Nicky Butt's foot injury. Newcastle are second bottom of the league, with one away win in 2008, but Keane has noted the fightbacks in their last two matches, against Everton and Manchester City. Keane's praise for Kinnear could not be higher.

"I'm pretty convinced that if Joe did now what he did at Wimbledon he'd be classed as a genius," Keane said. "That should not be forgotten. Joe is a football man. That comes across in the way that he talks, not the way he swears, but the way he talks. People like Joe know their football, you don't have to go on 50 courses. He's a football man. He's getting that mentality across at Newcastle. You can see that in the last couple of games."

Kinnear reciprocated. "I think a fair few years from now Roy Keane will be an ideal Manchester United manager, if not the Irish national manager. I'm not surprised at how calm Roy is, it's part of growing up. He's a great credit to himself. You can't judge people on what they were like as players. It's like Dave Mackay – he took no prisoners as a player but when he came into management he showed a completely different face."

Kinnear has shown one, at least, by curtailing swearing and his rolling contract could take him to Christmas or beyond judging by the lack of movement on the sale of the club. A report yesterday about a Kuwaiti buyer has been quietly dismissed by those acting for the Newcastle owner, Mike Ashley.

For Kinnear, the longer the better. "Everybody, even some players, keep telling me this is a crazy club," he said. "But I am loving it here. It's the best thing I've ever done. It really is." He added that he hopes to extend Newcastle's 28-year run to 29.

That would displease the man in Kansas. "Niall Quinn has called the run 'the Stan Cummins curse'," Cummins said. "I know where he's coming from. The thing is, I must be the only player in history to have scored the winner in a local derby and it be known as a curse."

Quinn would also know April 1980 for another reason. It was the month Irishman Johnny Logan won Eurovision. The song? "What's Another Year?"