Sunderland defender Michael Turner is relishing the prospect of biggest derby test of his career this weekend. The 26-year-old has contested local rivalries before, but admits Sunday's Tyne-Wear match between the Black Cats and Newcastle at St James' Park will be an entirely new experience.
Turner was in the Brentford side which beat League One Luton Town twice in three meetings, including an FA Cup third-round tie, during the 2004-05 season, and came out on top in both of Hull's Championship encounters with Scunthorpe United in 2007-08. However, he acknowledges that all of that pales into relative insignificance compared to this weekend's derby.
"They are minor compared to this one, but even in those games you can sense a different kind of feeling in the game and the atmosphere around the place," Turner said yesterday.
"Brentford v Luton and Hull v Scunthorpe – the battle of the Humber that was – again, they were nothing really compared to this, but on their day it was quite feisty on and off the pitch. Obviously, this one on a totally different scale, is going to be special.
"They are feisty occasions. Supporters from the same area come together with their teams fighting it out against each other. It's a big game and one we are all looking forward to being involved in."
Of the 11 men who started the last encounter between the two sides on Tyneside, a 1-1 draw on 1 February last year, only Phil Bardsley, Anton Ferdinand, Kieran Richardson and Steed Malbranque have a chance of doing so this time around, with George McCartney on loan at Leeds.
Ferdinand, Malbranque and Richardson are the only survivors of the famous 2-1 victory at the Stadium of Light earlier that season, when Richardson's late free-kick secured a first home win for the Wearsiders over Newcastle in 28 years.
However, captain Lee Cattermole and Dutchman Boudewijn Zenden have both played in derbies at St James' for former club Middlesbrough, and there has been no shortage of advice for the novices.
Turner said: "Everyone has asked all the people who have been here, 'What are they like?', and they have said they are great occasions. Everyone is looking forward to it here.
"People who have been there and done it before can't wait to get in there, and likewise for the boys who haven't been there. Everyone is excited about going into it.
"But even now, I don't think it is until after you have experienced it that you will know what it is actually like, and it's one I am certainly looking forward to. I knew when I signed for the club that games like this were massive occasions."
While it is a big game for the players of both sides, Turner is well aware that the stakes are even higher for the fans, with bragging rights up for grabs until the return fixture in January.
He said: "This one is a massive game for the fans. We need to produce for them and do them proud, so it is for them, really.
"We have been talking about it for weeks and I am sure they have been talking about it for weeks on end with their friends and rival fans, so it's important for us to put on a show for them, make sure we give our all and put on a good performance."