Aye, of course it is. Sam Johnson
The passion and hype surrounding a Tyne Wear derby is like nothing else for a Sunderland fan. While Sunderland vs Middleborough may not have the same all or nothing feel to it, it is still a derby.
Granted the match may feel more important from a Boro fans of point of view, the fact remains the match is a derby. The top tier of North East football is made up of Sunderland, Newcastle and Middleborough. When these teams collide there is an extra feel to the game. A extra bit of pride to play for.
While not all will admit it, every fan wants to be a supporter of the top team in their region. Like it or not Middleborough is a part of the North East and these games matter in establishing who will be classed as ‘top dog’.
The anticipation may not match up to the excitement of a Tyne Wear derby but more pride is on the line than in a regular fixture. There is no denying Middleborough fans do care more about the match than Sunderland fans but that shouldn’t take away from its importance.
The reason some may not see this fixture as a derby game is the lack of fan rivalry. Sunderland and Newcastle is full on fan banter off the pitch that adds to the build up of match. Some will say Sunderland fans don’t care enough about Boro to comment on the club but the rivalry off the pitch should not be ignored. Given our current situation the only way Sunderland will be able to get a true Tyne Wear derby in the next several years is through the cup. Because of this Middleborough is the next best thing and should be embraced as a big derby game.
The local feel to the match adds something a little different and hopefully this Saturday Sunderland will claim the ‘derby’ bragging rights.
Wey not likely. David Nunn
There is undoubtedly a decent amount of rivalry between Sunderland and Middlesbrough fans when the two come up against each other, as they will this weekend at the Stadium of Light. But for me, there is no way that this fixture should be labelled as a footballing derby.
Derby’s are all about history, famous fixtures, bragging rights and even geographical distance between either team. Sunderland and Newcastle, Celtic and Rangers and even Arsenal and Tottenham fall into each of these brackets.
The problem for Boro fans is, they’re stuck between fans of teams that have them down as a bit of an insignificance. Sunderland, Newcastle, Leeds and even Hull just don’t recognise their fixtures against them as a derby.
Of course, the typical Middlesbrough fan response is that they’ve had the upper hand in the head to head fixtures against the lads in recent season’s – but maybe the fact that they’re more up for the game is the exact reason for that?
Without our huge rivalry with our noisy neighbours Newcastle, maybe the Wear-Tees matchup would be one that Sunderland fans and even the club itself placed more emphasis on. But the fact is, Middlesbrough just don’t bring that excitement to Sunderland fans like a Newcastle do – one of the few things both Sunderland and Newcastle fans can agree on.
However, despite me and many of the other Sunderland fans playing down the game in terms of derby status, there is no doubt that Chris Coleman must get his players up for this Saturday’s Wear-Tees clash. The lads could find themselves six points adrift if they were to lose and other teams were to pick up points and it would be tough to see us going anywhere but down as a result of this.