Steve McClaren will approach his first Wear-Tyne derby as Newcastle’s head coach as “just another game” as he attempts to keep his players’ feet firmly on the ground.
The Magpies head for the Stadium of Light on Sunday determined to break a run of five successive defeats by arch-rivals Sunderland.
They do so having ended their wait for a first Barclays Premier League victory of the season with last Sunday’s resounding 6-2 win over Norwich to meet a bottom-of-the-table Black Cats side still to collect three points from a game since the start of the campaign.
For fans of both clubs, it is one of the two most important fixtures of the season, and while McClaren is well aware of what it means, he does not want his players to be caught up in the hype.
He said: “It’s just another game. We don’t know anything about the five previous ones and I don’t know, half of the team probably won’t either.
“It’s a fresh game, new game, great opportunity and why should we approach this game any differently than we approached Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Norwich?
“We have to approach every game the same. This game is massive for the fans and I know there is a determination in this club and always will be to get that win for the fans.”
Spirits have been raised significantly on Tyneside in recent days in the wake of the win over Norwich, which saw Newcastle play some of their best attacking football of the campaign to date, although some of their defending was less than water-tight.
But McClaren admits is is simply too close to call as he attempts to drag his club out of the relegation zone.
He said: “I don’t think there are any favourites in this game. Anyone can look at past records and say, ‘Sunderland will be the favourites’, or say, ‘You got your first win, so you are the favourites’.
“No, in the position that we are in, I don’t think you can call the game. It’s a derby game, form goes out of the window, old cliches – [Sunderland boss] Sam [Allardyce] will be saying them tomorrow – and they are true.
“It’s a one-off game, a tough one. You can’t control the result, just how you play, how you perform and we really have to perform well on Sunday to get a result.”