[dropcap]F[/dropcap]or a few seasons now, both of the main teams in the North East have suffered in the Premier League and both have been lucky to avoid relegation to the lower leagues.
This season, for the most part, hasn’t been much different with Newcastle in 19th position and Sunderland in 17th position and both teams largely disappointing in the league.
However, both of the most northerly teams in the Premier League have had a manager change this season, Steve McClaren coming in for the unpopular John Carver at the beginning of this campaign and Sam Allardyce coming in for Dick Advocaat only two months ago.
One of these managerial changes has so far proved very successful, whereas the other hasn’t really evidenced any real progression thus far.
On the marginally happier side of the North East, Sam Allardyce’s side has picked up nine points and three clean sheets from the last five games, one of those games being the 3-0 home demolition of their Geordie arch-nemeses.
Having only picked up three points before Allardyce’s arrival, Sunderland fans should be optimistic of the prospect of the Yorkshireman potentially guiding the Black Cats to safety, should this good run be prescient of the future.
Whilst Sunderland fans will be disappointed that their team is in this position in the first place, with Allardyce’s good record of keeping sides up, they’ll know that they are in good hands in avoiding the dreaded drop into the Championship.
They won’t be playing the most attractive football, efficiency and clean sheets will be the order of the day, more so this season, and the Black Cats will be hoping for a similar transformation seen at West Ham, where, whether the Hammers fans like it or not, Allardyce consolidated their status in the Premier League.
On the Tyne side of things, the future is a little less rosy at the moment.
After a catastrophic 2014/15 season, and narrowly avoiding relegation, Mike Ashley and the Newcastle board decided to replace John Carver with former England manager Steve McClaren.
With Steve McClaren being considered one of the worst England managers of all time, whose league-leading Derby County side looked certain to be promoted until early March, only to pick up 12 points from their remaining 12 games and dramatically miss out on a play-off place – this appointment had to be considered a risk.
And so far, Magpie fans are yet to see an improvement from last season, having the second highest net spend in the summer, forking out £46m only to see their beloved side second from the very foot of the table.
A goal difference of -16, a 3-0 defeat to local rivals Sunderland, a 6-1 annihilation at the Etihad and more recently a 5-1 humiliation by Crystal Palace (a team their North East counterparts beat in the same fixture the previous week) – Newcastle fans must really be wondering what’s actually changed since last season.
Sure, the quality of their team is undoubtedly higher than last season, Georginio Wijnaldum, Aleksandar Mitrović and Florian Thauvin look like decent acquisitions, but only the former has thus far shown what he can do, playing his part magnificently in the rare 6-2 thrashing of recently promoted Norwich.
Horrendous defending, a common theme of last season, is still endemic in this Newcastle side, with summer signing Mbemba yet to impress and Fabriccio Coloccini again failing to show why he should be captain of this side.
Coloccini is hardly the most vocal of centre-backs, he isn’t physically pulling players into position or marshalling his back four like a player in his position should be, he needs to be McClaren’s voice on the pitch and he needs to start coming out of his shell if this Newcastle side want to look like a force again.
Of course, its only December, and there’s plenty of time for this Newcastle side to improve and lift themselves out of this rut, but changes needed to be seen and points picked up this month if the Magpies are to be optimistic of the preservation of their much-treasured Premier League status.
Overall, despite a very poor start from the North East in the 2015/16 season, one side appears to be finally getting into the groove of picking up points, whilst the other really needs to get into this groove if they have any hope of staying in the top flight next season – it really is a tale of two cities.
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