Cavernous the main stand at the Stadium of Light may be, but within its bowels, the opposing dressing rooms are just about within earshot of each other and the hosts are determined to test that out tomorrow. Revenge might not be so much a dish served cold, more one laden with decibels.
If there was any morsel of salvation to be picked from the wreckage of their 5-1 Halloween humiliation at the hands of their local rivals, it was that the fixture computer ensured their wait for redemption would be just 77 days. The festering memory of having to listen to Newcastle's players and supporters celebrate the most one-sided Tyne-Wear derby in living memory is all the motivation Sunderland need to drive them in their quest to set the record straight. "If we win on Sunday I'm sure we'll give Newcastle the same treatment," Kieran Richardson, the midfielder insisted.
Steve Bruce, mercilessly taunted by 50,000 fellow Geordies, went straight to bed as soon as he got home on that fateful day. The Sunderland manager has yet to venture to his local pub, acutely aware of the ribbing that lies in store two-and-a-half months on. "The manager was pretty much speechless," Richardson added. "It was awful, all doom and gloom because things couldn't have been much worse. Then we had to wait around afterwards for our bus and we could hear all the singing and chanting. It wasn't nice and it contrasted with the silence on our bus on the way back."
The 26-year-old former Manchester United midfielder scored the winning goal on Newcastle's most recent visit in 2008, their sole defeat in the last 13 trips across the Tyne spanning more than three decades. Richardson added: "We suffered enough embarrassment last time, it has to be the lowest point of my career, and none of us want to feel like that again. All the lads involved in that game want to put things right."
Bruce will give every opportunity for his captain Lee Cattermole and the on-loan Manchester United forward Danny Welbeck to prove their fitness, but it is a course of injury brinkmanship his opposite number Alan Pardew refused to follow after ending speculation over Andy Carroll's involvement by ruling out the 11-goal top scorer.
"He's not even close to fitness," the Newcastle manager conceded after the England international admitted defeat to a thigh problem that sees the forward miss a fourth consecutive game.
In addition to the loss through suspension of the influential midfielder Cheik Tiote, the two absences are a major boost for the hosts, who were run ragged by the Gateshead-born 22-year-old forward back in October. "This game means everything to Andy so it's a huge disappointment for the lad," added Pardew, who confirmed his admiration for Jay Bothroyd, the Cardiff City forward who has been linked with a move to Tyneside.
Carroll hoped that taking in a spot of winter sun in Dubai earlier this week might help speed his recovery, but Pardew said: "The injury was a little bit worse than we at first thought. It's the kicking muscle, we can't take a chance on him tearing it, so he's got absolutely no chance for Sunday."
Pardew's use of the term "explosive" to describe his first taste of the North-East derby was perhaps a little unwise, but it's unlikely his introduction to this turf war will be the catastrophe experienced by Bruce on his "debut" 11 weeks ago, a fact not lost on the Sunderland manager, who added: "I hope Alan enjoys his first North-East derby as much as I did mine."