Steve McClaren will be bracing himself for a backlash from fans should a derby defeat cap his shaky start as Newcastle manager but Sam Allardyce argues that he will be the man under greater pressure when the North-east rivals meet at the Stadium of Light on Sunday, even though it will be only his second match since taking over at Sunderland.
Despite the annual struggle to stay in the Premier League, Sunderland have not lost to Newcastle in their last seven encounters. With the Magpies currently alongside them in the bottom three, Black Cats fans will expect the sequence to continue and Allardyce is anxious not to become the first in a line of five Sunderland managers to lose the club’s biggest game.
“The pressure’s on me more than Steve because we’ve won the last five,” Allardyce said. “I don’t want to be the one that doesn’t win it, particularly with managing both clubs.”
The last Sunderland manager to lose a derby was Steve Bruce in 2011. Martin O’Neill drew his two derbies in charge and Paolo di Canio, Gus Poyet and Dick Advocaat between them won five out of five.
Allardyce, whose only derby as Newcastle manager was drawn, launched his Sunderland reign on Saturday with an unlucky defeat at West Bromwich. There, the outcome was decided by a controversial Saido Berahino goal after Sunderland goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon dropped a cross, claiming he was fouled by the Albion striker. Allardyce agreed, blaming referee Martin Atkinson for denying Sunderland a first clean sheet of the season.
Albion’s former Sunderland winger James McClean, who was goaded throughout the match by visiting fans, faces an anxious wait to learn if he will be punished for his clenched-fist celebration in front of them at the final whistle. He was confronted by Sunderland’s Danny Graham and others in the scuffle that followed before being ushered away by a team-mate.
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