DAVIDE Santon has played in one of the biggest derbies in world football – and he expects the Tyne-Wear fixture to be equally fierce.
The Newcastle United defender’s relishing Sunday’s game against Sunderland at St James’s Park.
Santon has played in the Milan derby, the fiercest fixture in Italian football, and the 21-year-old’s confident he’s ready for one of the Premier League’s most intense rivalries.
Alan Pardew’s sixth-placed side, held to a frustrating 2-2 home draw by Wolves on Saturday, entertain Martin O’Neill’s Sunderland looking to do the double over their rivals, having won 1-0 at the Stadium of Light on August.
Santon was still an Inter Milan player when Ryan Taylor, then Newcastle’s left-back, curled a stunning free-kick over the wall to decide the contest.
Now settled into Pardew’s side, the Italy international believes his experiences in Serie A have equipped him for the game, a 52,000 sell-out.
“I played in three Milan derbies,” Santon told the Gazette. “That will help me immensely, as I know what winning the derby means.
“There are 90,000 people in the San Siro, and it doesn’t get much more intense.
“It’s as intense as it is here – people talk about the game weeks in advance – and the fans go crazy about the game.
“The team that lose? Well, their fans are very quiet, and the fans and the players don’t leave the house for two weeks after the game.
“Everybody here’s talking about it – the fans and the other players – and I just can’t wait to be part of it. I’ve been thinking of this game for a long time.”
Santon, signed from Inter last summer as Jose Enrique’s replacement, is still adjusting to the demands of English football.
An attack-minded full-back, Santon’s looked at his most comfortable on the front foot, yet he’s never scored a senior goal in his career at Inter, United or loan club Cesena.
And Santon’s hopeful he can finally open his account at his new home.
“I can’t wait to score a goal – I haven’t done so yet,” he added.
“I’ve never scored a goal, full stop!
“I’d love that first goal to come against Sunderland. People know I love to get forward, and that would make it the perfect day if we win and I score.”