JOHN Beresford says Sunday’s Wear-Tyne derby could turn out to be a “classic” – despite the doom and gloom at Newcastle United and Sunderland.
The 152nd meeting between the North East’s two great rivals is one of the least-anticipated in history.
Everybody’s been saying it’ll be 0-0 or 1-0, but I think there are goals in it. Sunderland will have to come out and attack, and the game could open up.John Carver
Sunderland are battling the threat of relegation from the Premier League, while there is disillusionment on Tyneside after years of under-investment.
A crippling injury list – and suspensions to key duo Fabricio Coloccini and Papiss Demba Cisse – has decimated head coach John Carver’s options ahead of the fixture.
For his part, Beresford, part of Kevin Keegan’s swash-buckling team of the 1990s, believes there WILL be goals at the Stadium of Light.
The former United defender feels Sunderland will have to attack – and that will leave gaps for 12th-placed Newcastle to exploit.
“It’s a massive game, wherever you are in the league,” Beresford told the Gazette.
“Newcastle have got a point to prove, and there’s never been a better time to go to Sunderland.
“Both teams are both short of confidence.
“But Dick Advocaat will think his team needs to win – I don’t think Sunderland can afford to draw – and I hope John Carver has a go as well.
“I think it makes for a really interesting derby.
“Everybody’s been saying it’ll be 0-0 or 1-0, but I think there are goals in it. Sunderland will have to come out and attack, and the game could open up.
“I don’t think Newcastle have got the team to grind out a result.
“In a strange way, it could turn out to be a classic.”
Beresford feels former Sunderland man Jack Colback – who had to play at left-back against Arsenal earlier this month – must return to midfield for the derby.
“I was astonished that Arsene Wenger – who’s a great coach – had Theo Walcott on the bench when they had Ryan Taylor and Jack Colback in the full-back positions,” he said.
“Newcastle got settled, and did all right in the second half.
“You’d say the weak link is the back four with the players they have missing. In the derby, Sunderland will be looking to get Newcastle on the back foot.
“I’d play Colback in midfield – it’s not his natural game to play at full-back.”
Beresford – who will be at the Stadium of Light for the game with former Sunderland midfielder Kevin Ball – is hoping Carver’s players understand the significance of the game.
“John Carver obviously understands when it means, and I hope the players do,” said Beresford.
“I’d take the players for a walk around town. They’d meet fans, who’d tell them ‘don’t let me down’.
“They’d get a feel for what it means to the fans. And vice versa, I’d do the same at Sunderland.
“I don’t think the players mix enough with fans now. Me and Bally often reminisce, and it was different in our day.”
Beresford’s first derby came at Sunderland’s former Roker Park home in October 1992, and the fixture was famously won by a Liam O’Brien free-kick in front of the club’s travelling fans.
And the “animosity” caught Beresford by surprise.
“My first derby was at Roker Park when Liam O’Brien scored, and it caught me by surprise,” he said.
“It was frightening. There was so much animosity – it was electric on the pitch.”