There was good news and bad news yesterday.
First the bad news. A Newcastle United XI lost 6-0 to Sunderland at an empty Stadium of Light. Yes, 6-0.
But that scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story, embarrassing as it may sound.
The Sunderland team fielded by Sam Allardyce was significantly stronger than that which assistant coach Ian Cathro, put in charge by United head coach Steve McClaren, sent out in the behind-closed-doors fixture.
Cathro’s side included young players Liam Gibson, Dan Barlaser, Callum Roberts and Sean Longstaff.
The inexperienced Gibson played at left-back, with Paul Dummett, Massadio Haidara and Jack Colback all sidelined through injury.
Florian Thauvin, one fringe player who was surely in need of a game for the relegation-threatened club, wasn’t involved.
By contrast, Sunderland, two points behind 18th-placed Newcastle in the Premier League table, named a significantly more experienced starting XI.
Duncan Watmore scored a hat-trick, while Steven Fletcher netted twice. Jack Rodwell also scored for a home side which also included new signings Jan Kirchhoff and Dame N’Doye.
It was men against boys in some areas of the pitch.
The game was arranged to top-up the fitness of a number of senior players, among them Rolando Aarons, Steven Taylor and Emmanuel Riviere, with the club not having a fixture this weekend due to its FA Cup exit earlier this month.
Sylvain Marveaux, unfortunately, suffered a first-half injury, though everyone else came through the match unscathed.
Allardyce was also able to get minutes into the legs of his fringe players.
It wasn’t about the result, though results in meetings between Newcastle and Sunderland always matter to some extent.
There was still pride at stake, and United’s derby pride took another dent.
Fortunately, no supporters were there to see it, though plenty on Wearside would have gladly paid to watch to watch the practice game given their team’s record against United in recent seasons.
Let’s be clear, it wasn’t a seventh successive derby win for Sunderland.
It doesn’t count, but the result was still hard to take on Tyneside.
The better news came later in the day when United confirmed that Andros Townsend had completed his £12million move from Tottenham Hotspur.
Townsend’s arrival is more important to Newcastle’s hopes of staying up than what happened on Wearside.
The two-footed winger should bring pace and purpose to McClaren’s side.
Townsend also has something to prove.
The 24-year-old’s new club will have something to prove when United and Sunderland meet for real at St James’s Park on March 20.
And this match pales into insignificance when compared with that game and the Premier League fixtures that precede. The other good news is that it will be quickly forgotten, at least on Tyneside, if Townsend can hit the ground running.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Darlow; Barlaser, Taylor, Lascelles, Gibson; Roberts, Gouffran, Longstaff, Marveaux, Aarons; Riviere.