Sunderland Preview – It’s The Last Chance For Tottenham


Ladies and gentlemen, for your entertainment, education and delectation, I hereby present some trivia and history about Sunderland. I have taken it from the best graphic novel I have ever read, “Alice in Sunderland” by Brian Talbot. I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

Origins of the Geordies and Mackems Rivalry

Alice in Sunderland [Photo: Alan hill]Whatever you do, don’t confuse people from Sunderland who are known as ‘Mackems’ with people from Newcastle who are ‘Geordies’.

The nickname ‘Mackems’ dates from the days of shipbuilding. The phrase is “there’s those who mack ‘em and those who tak ‘em”. They used to “mack ‘em” in the busy shipyards and an alarming proportion of Mackems are irredeemably football crazy.

The intense rivalry between the two teams is not purely down to football and goes back centuries. At the end of the Middle Ages, the Port of Newcastle as a Royal Borough with granted trading rights and aggressive merchant guilds dominated the lucrative export trade in coal and wool. To ensure their virtual monopoly, the Newcastle Guilds successfully petitioned James I to levy a tax on all coal exported from Sunderland. His successor Charles I doubled it. No surprise then that during the Civil War the towns were on opposing sides: Newcastle was staunchly royalist and Sunderland supplied coal to Parliament-held London and hosted a parliamentarian Garrison.

Sunderland/Newcastle rivalry [Photo: Alan Hill]In 1644, 21,000 Scots encamped there supported by the Mackems before attacking and taking Newcastle for Parliament. The Geordies’ anger at this still smoulders though many don’t know the origin of the grudge. The Civil War ended with Charles I getting his head chopped off. The dependence on royal approval for its trade kept Newcastle royalist and it’s the only Northumbrian town to declare for George I during the 1715 Jacobite rebellion, closing its gates to the rebels.

History repeated itself during the rebellion of 1745 when the city, under the command of Alison Liddell’s great-grandfather (she was the real girl who inspired Lewis Carroll’s character Alice in Wonderland) supported George II. One story goes that this earned them the nickname ‘Geordies’, an abbreviation of George’s men.

Footballing Memories of Sunderland

Tottenham v Sunderland [Photo: Alan Hill]Moving at least a little bit more up-to-date, here are some memories of a Wednesday night game against Sunderland from 14th April 1982. This one was at White Hart Lane. Sunderland were fighting against relegation as they’ve hsad to do for much of this season. We had beaten them at Roker Park, with a 2-0 win the previous October. We had also just beaten Arsenal at Highbury the previous Monday. It was a comfortable 3-1 win with a goal from Micky Hazard and two from Garth Crooks. By the end of the season we would have played 65 games including the F.A. Cup Final. Steve Perryman had just won the Evening Standard ‘Footballer of the Month’ award for the fourth time that season and Spurs had recently named a suite in the new West Stand after the great Bill Nicholson. The Sunderland team included their record signing, a young Scottish forward called Ally McCoist.

It was a short trip on the tube from my Harley Street flat (nowhere near as posh as it sounds – it was a shared flat and my resident landlady was the sister of the famous mercenary “mad” Mike Hoare – but that is perhaps a story for another time) to Seven Sisters followed by the familiar march up Tottenham High Road for the evening kick-off. The game was a 2-2 draw with Galvin and Hoddle scoring for Spurs.

Photo: Alan Hill

Sunderland in 2012-13

And so to this season. Martin O’Neill has been a very good manager but sadly in recent years has had to cope with considerable strain in his personal life on top of the pressures of Premier League management. Not long ago, he would have been high on the list of possible replacements for Alex Ferguson. However, after his initial positive impact with Sunderland last season, the spark seemed to go out of the team and they were struggling, much as their Geordie rivals have done. His sacking didn’t come as a total surprise in the cut-throat world of football but Paulo Di Canio’s appointment has been controversial.

Two wins on the trot seemed to have had the desired effect but a thrashing by Aston Villa and a draw against Southampton put them back in trouble but Wigan’s failure to take points off Arsenal saw the FA Cup winners relegated and Sunderland safe. Tottenham still need Sunderland’s north-east neighbours, Newcastle, to win or get a draw against Arsenal on the last day of the season.

Thank you to Tottenham Hotspur for the fun and the drama again this year and thanks to all of you for reading my blogs on HotspurHQ. Whatever happens on Sunday, the future is sure to continue to be a roller coaster of excitement. Football only a game? Nonsense. It raises our lives out of the humdrum and for brief moments can banish all your cares and worries. That’s why I will remain Spurs and England forever.