SÉBASTIEN Bassong has become good friends with Sunderland striker Djibril Cissé since moving to England, but he knows there will be no chance of any pleasantries being exchanged during the Tyne-Wear derby.
Bassong has spent a lot of time with his fellow Frenchman since joining Newcastle in the summer and was happy to talk about their friendship in the build-up to tomorrow’s pivotal clash, which even extends to him buying his clothes from Cissé’s Newcastle-based boutique.
He said: “I have played against him five or six times in France and once in England. He is a good guy and a friend of mine. Not on Sunday, though. We talk all the time about the derby. I am taking the p***, he’s taking the p***, all the time. On the pitch that will be happening. I knew him while we were over in France, basically just through playing against each other, but since we both moved here, we have got to know each other more. He is a big friend now.
“Djibril is a special guy. He has a proper style and ideas for clothes and his own ideas for living. He wears strange clothes. If he wasn’t like the way he is, he wouldn’t be Djibril Cissé. We all like Djibril Cissé the way he is.”
Bassong has already had one taste of the tribal passion which marks out the North East derby as one of European football’s best and he is happy to admit the pressure is on Newcastle to avenge their 2-1 defeat at the Stadium of Light in October.
Should the Magpies suffer humiliation on home soil, Sunderland would move six points clear of them in the table and shove their neighbours even further into the relegation quicksand. It is not a result Bassong can contemplate. He added: “There is pressure. It’s good to have that because it makes a better game. We could not afford to think about the Sunderland game until after the Manchester City match. Once that was out of the way, Sunderland is all anyone is thinking about.
“Since arriving in England, that first match was the best atmosphere I have been involved in. It was very noisy and the pressure was intense.
“It’s very different to other games in the Premier League. It’s huge for both cities, the fans and there is an added importance because of where both teams are in the league.”