There are only about 13 miles between Sunderland and Newcastle but the mood at those two training grounds this week will be worlds apart.
Gus Poyet can do whatever he wants this week because the atmosphere at Sunderland will be buoyant. I remember in 1999 I was part of the last Everton squad that won at Anfield and on the Monday we were expecting pats on the back – only for Walter Smith to tell us all to get our tracksuits back on because we were going for a bus ride.
The lads were none too happy but we wound through Liverpool city centre and pulled up outside this cafe, where Walter told us to get out because we were having a fry up!
We were sat there in our Everton tracksuits tucking in, getting pelters from the Reds while all the Toffees were patting us on the back. It was Walter’s way of showing us how much this game meant and it worked brilliantly.
You couldn’t do that in Newcastle, but that victory has given Gus a blank cheque this week. The momentum, the confidence and the feel-good factor are going to be priceless for Sunderland in the coming weeks.
Across the city at Newcastle, Alan Pardew has a massive job on. Newcastle United supporters are right to feel let down by what happened on Saturday and Alan has the job of lifting them out of the doldrums – even if he’s not feeling particularly good himself.
His job on Monday was to come in with a smile on his face, put on a session that lifts the players and try and turn around the mood in that camp.
If we’d lost big games the last thing you needed was a running session or to be pulled up again. The best managers say their piece and then by Monday it’s ‘Forget it, it’s done – the next game is the most important’.
Nobody’s fooled by that after a derby game that cuts deep but it’s what you need to hear. This week is about man-management for Alan.
Now I have a chequered relationship with Alan stretching back to my time at West Ham. I had lost my mother and was going through a divorce so it was incredibly difficult time for me personally and he didn’t give me permission to go to her funeral.
It was hard to go back in our relationship from there and I spent time training with the kids. But what I do know is that Alan was lucky at West Ham to have the dressing room he had, because there were good, senior professionals in there.
Guys like Steve Lomas, Christian Dailly and Teddy Sheringham could sort out the dressing room and keep some of the younger players in check and it was up to Alan to do the work on the training ground, which was an area where he was very good.
Alan will be looking around his Newcastle dressing room this week and thinking: which one of you will stand up? You need characters at times like this and this is where people earn their corn – Alan included.
I was shocked and surprised by Saturday’s Tyne-Wear derby and Alan’s approach mystified me.
It wasn’t so much the ease of Sunderland’s win – although that was a shock. It was what I saw in the middle of the park for long periods during that first half that surprised me.
It felt to me as if Sunderland’s players had time to put their foot on the ball, play their passes and run the game. Where was the 100mph, frenetic football that you associate with derby games up and down the land? It just wasn’t there and Sunderland bossed that midfield area.
Gus got it spot on with his midfield. Ki is a tidy player and Liam Bridcutt came in and did everything tidily. Jack Colback was the one who really impressed me – he was so, so comfortable on the ball. You don’t want to go over the top but I know what the fans chant about him and he did actually resemble Paul Scholes on Saturday.
Alan, on the other hand, seemed to take the attitude that with Yohan Cabaye having left we can’t compete with them in midfield so we’ll go a bit more direct towards Shola Ameobi, who I felt very sorry for. It was all wrong for me and he cannot abandon his principles like that again. It looked weak.
He needs to find a way of playing a passing game without Cabaye. Whether that means going to a ‘tight three’ in midfield – maybe Moussa Sissoko, Vurnon Anita and Cheick Tiote – or promoting someone from the under-21s, he needs to move on.