ALAN Pardew hopes the 151st Tyne-Wear derby will be remembered for its passion – and NOT poison.
Newcastle United’s normally heavily-policed home fixture against Sunderland has been marred by confrontations outside St James’s Park in recent years.
But Northumberia Police have decided on a lower-key policing strategy for Sunday’s game.
And United manager Pardew has sensed a change of mood in the North East.
“I’m hearing the right stuff on the radio and in the street about the levels of antagonism between the two clubs dying down a little bit to what it’s really about – a football match,” said Pardew.
“I’m really pleased about that and hope it carries through to Sunday.”
Supporters from both clubs launched the “A Derby To Be Proud Of” initiative to celebrate the fixture.
Pardew also felt the fundraising efforts of Sunderland fans in the summer built bridges between the two supporter bases.
An online collection set up in memory of Newcastle fans John Alder and Liam Sweeney – who lost their lives on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on the way to support their team in New Zealand – raised tens of thousands of pounds.
Pardew – who himself toned down his behaviour on the touchline after a derby confrontation with then-Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill – is hopeful a trouble-free, but fiercely-contested, game will be played out.
“I said two years ago that this nasty hate – those kinds of words – needed to go out,” said Pardew.
“It’s a rivalry, a game of football – may the best team win, and then we shake hands and go home.
“The incident with the flight this year, and the way the Sunderland fans contributed and the effort they made, has made great steps to help this fixture become what it should be, a spectacle for the North East, not something where we have to order extra police.”
Pardew, however, doesn’t want the fixture to lose its passion and intensity.
“The last thing the North East should be doing is fighting each other, but, at the same time, knowing it’s a massive rivalry, the passion of the game shouldn’t be lost,” he added.
“We know that will be there and it’s what it should be about. I’m sure Gus (Poyet) is of the same opinion as me.
“The incident with the Malaysian flight has definitely helped build bridges and we need to carry on doing that.”