The real reason why Mackems and Geordies are such fierce  rivals - and it has nothing to do with football

From football, transport links to election counts, there is very little that Mackems and Geordies won’t compete with each other over.

Sunday, 12th January 2020, 8:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 14th January 2020, 10:50 am

Ridiculous scenes of staff sprinting with ballot boxes are shown on television every election night as Sunderland and Newcastle do battle over the victory of, erm, declaring an MP before the other.

The football rivalry is the best known of the Sunderland vs Newcastle hatred and the Tyne and Wear Derby is the stuff of legends in the footballing world.

Planes have even been drafted in to carry messages above the skies of the rivals’ stadiums in recent years as the fans looked for more and more inventive ways to taunt each other.

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Tyne Wear football derbys have exposed the deep rivalry between Wearsiders and Tynesiders. File pic Sunderland v Newcastle 24 February 1979. Score Sunderland 4 Newcastle 1 o

And Sunderland fans’ hatred of Newcastle even led to a dip in sales on Wearside of Sugar Puffs cereal after Kevin Keegan starred in an advert for the breakfast product in 1996. The Honey Monster himself donned red and white stripes in 2009 in an attempt to woo back Wearside fans.

However not many people know that the fierce rivalry of the two places which are little more than ten miles apart is hundreds of years older than the game of football itself.

Centuries before men were paid thousands of pounds a week to kick a ball around, people who lived on the banks of the River Wear took a dislike to those living up on the banks of the Tyne, and it started with an argument about money.

In the 1610s, James I would always award coal trading rights to Newcastle, not Wearside. This was continued by his deluded and eventually headless son, Charles I and decades of this led to Sunderland’simpoverishment.

A blue plaque marks the spot where the Scottish Army camped out in Sunderland before taking on Royalists at Tyneside

Enter the happy-go-lucky Oliver Cromwell and the Civil War. In 1642, Ollie garrisoned a load of Scottish soldiers in Sunderland and the Mackems were all too happy to accommodate the lads who were taking on those Royalist Geordies.

This led to the 1644 Battle of Boldon Hill, won by Sunderland and Scotland. Newcastle was effectively colonised by Scotland for a while.

Newcastle’s monopoly on the coal trade was broken, benefiting Sunderland.

This didn’t last too long though as the Restoration of 1660 saw Charles II return to the throne and he again offered the coal rights to his mates in north of the Tyne. Boo.

And so the rivalry continued to this day, manifesting itself mainly in the terraces since the 1800s.

If we’re keeping score (which, of course, we are), Sunderland have been English champions six times to Newcastle United’s four. However as the last time either achieved this was in 1936, it might be time to find something else to compete over.