THE sauna at my gym on a Sunday night resembles the House of Commons.
Newcastle United fans on one side of the room, Sunderland followers on the other and a lot of hot air passing to and forth inbetween.
At the weekend, however, the conversation was a little more muted than of late.
Given that it was international weekend, there were no defeats to chew over for the North-East’s “big two”.
Instead a more philosophical discussion ensued about the stagnating pool of English players available to our illustrious national side.
The conclusion was that it was the growth of the motor industry to blame.
In my day you could safely have a spacious game of three-a-side in the cul-de-sac where I lived without worrying about smashing car windows.
Drive up the same street now and you are weaving in and out of vehicles parked inconsiderately on the side of the road.
Not that using Bukta tracksuit tops and Chopper bikes as goalposts improved my shooting ability.
Nor am I convinced that the well-documented fall in the number of top-flight English footballers can be used as a complete excuse for our international failings over the last 20 years.
First of all we were international failures for 20 years before the Premier League was concocted in 1992.
Secondly your career is not necessarily over just because you are released from some poncy top-flight academy as a teenager.
As deflating an experience as this might be, particularly if you have had every coach, agent and parent telling you how great you are for the past decade, it is up to you to bounce back.
David Seaman, Chris Waddle, Peter Beardsley, Stuart Pearce, David Platt and now Rickie Lambert are all examples of England interationals who were either rejected early doors or worked their way up from the lower divisions.
If they can do it why cannot others?
Perhaps because as a nation we want everything yesterday and lack the willpower to stick at something when it does not go our way as smoothly or as quickly as we would like.
Someone who could never be accused of wanting everything yesterday is former Newcastle United goalkeeper Steve Harper.
Harper bided his time for a decade as understudy to Shay Given – hasn’t he been found out since leaving Tyneside? – before finally getting a regular crack between the St James’s Park tracksuits and bikes in 2009.
Wednesday’s exhibition match between Newcastle and AC Milian veterans has attracted added spice by the likely appearance of one Paolo di Canio.
No doubt the Sunderland boss will be booed like some pantomime villain.
I’m not so sure he merits such a reception.
If he keeps on masterminding red and white defeats then he will soon deserve as thunderous a greeting as Harper will rightly receive.