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Sunderland AFC - Newcastle United (1-4)
Premier League, 17 April 2006
Stadium : Stadium Of Light
Attendance : 44.000

It had been such an awful season as a Sunderland supporter, we were on 12 points and hadn't won at home all season. We were actually delighted when we were finally relegated because it meant we wouldn't face the humiliation of being relegated by the Geordies. The only thing left to play for was pride and no derby in the country has as much pride at stake as Sunderland Vs Newcastle.

Kevin Ball (our legendary captain) had been made caretaker manager and we all hoped the team would adopt his unique fighting spirit and commitment.

Before the match the pubs were packed in the city centre, chants echoing from pub to pub but even the neutral would feel the menace in the air and looking around you saw these aren't the people usually in the city centre on a matchday, these people are here to find Newcastle fans.

We left the pub at about 20 past 2, the centre was crawling with fans on their way to the match and groups of casuals hanging around waiting for Newcastle fans getting off the train. Maybe 500 seemed to have gathered in front of police lines hoping to attack the Geordies.

We didn't stick around and continued our way to the stadium. We crossed Wearmouth Bridge and a metro train pulled up at St. Peters and a mob of Newcastle fans got off. There was a roar and fighting broke out on the platform, apparently some Sunderland fans had managed to get up and attack the Newcastle fans. Police were in very quickly and stopped the trouble but I looked towards the city centre and the 500 waiting in the city centre were rushing across the bridge, they must have got a phone call telling them Newcastle had got off a different stop.

We hurried away, police sealed off our usual route to the stadium so we headed the long way with thousands of others singing and chanting. You could see fans fighting police at St. Peters metro stop, trying to attack the Newcastle fans.

Horses charging into fans, dogs barking, police hitting out with batons. Bottles, rocks, cones flying towards them. People screaming for the Newcastle fans to come down and fight but they didn't seem too enthusiastic about getting into 500 Sunderland hooligans.

We got into the stadium, leaving the mini riot behind. The atmosphere was amazingly tense. We had tickets for the North Stand but wanted to be part of the real atmosphere so went into the South West corner. There was more people than seats in there so we crowded onto the stairway with others, it felt like being back on the terraces, brilliant!

Sunderland started the match really well, attacking Newcastle all the time, really giving them a shock. Crosses and shots bombarding the box and suddenly we took the lead from loan star Justin Hoyte of Arsenal and the crowd went mental! We were all jumping on seats, hugging strangers, some ran onto the pitch to celebrate with the players.

The rest of the first half was fantastic, nonstop chanting from our fans the Newcastle fans looked absolutely sick. We didn't give up, continuing to dominate the game, giving the so called Toon army a real fright. Constant songs about Shearer, rubbing it in that he won nothing with Newcastle.

Half time, 1-0 and we couldn't be happier. Dancing around the bar at half time, singing our heads off, our hearts out and daring to believe it was our day, Newcastle looked a very poor side, we knew they were but they should be better than us, we actually looked like a Premiership team.

Second half began and we ripped into them again straight away, Kevin Balls spirit shining through the team, many fans were unhappy because Ball had praised Shearer in the papers that day but that was all forgotten about as 'ooh Bally Bally' rang around the stadium as it had done at Roker Park and the early days of the Stadium of Light when Ball was our captain.

But suddenly it went wrong. A poor mistake lead to a Newcastle goal and the mood just changed so suddenly. Newcastle fans were going crazy and ours were livid. The South West corner has always been our most rowdy part of the stadium with drunken problems and problems with swearing and persistent standing, basically the best part of the stadium and usually the only part with some atmosphere but this game the South West corner was ugly.

Some Newcastle fans were in the executive box behind us and stupidly celebrated and taunted us. The air was suddenly full of bottles, cups of tea, coins, keys, lighters etc just being hurled at the Newcastle fans behind. Fans tried to climb over into the boxes to attack them and the Geordies ran inside the box for cover. A hostile roaring chant of 'we hate Geordies' and 'hello hello we are the Sunderland boys and if you are a Magpie fan surrender or you die!' erupted, it sounded like a war cry.

As all this was going on the match had began again without us even noticing and the unthinkable happened, Newcastle got a pentalty. We just fell silent, gutted, knowing what was going to happen, how could this have gone so wrong after an hour of dominating the game? Bang, Shearer scores from the spot and fans are spitting blood with fury.

Without even thinking I found myself among others running down the steps and towards the Newcastle fans in the South stand, by the time I got there I came to my senses and went back to my place shaking with anger but other fans were clashing with police, desperate to attack the Newcastle fans. Other fans ran to the front of the stand, I think they were trying to get onto the pitch then run at the South stand, police beat them back and missiles started being thrown into the South stand holding the Newcastle support.

Not long later Newcastle hit a third goal and it all happened again, missiles thrown, fans trying to run at the South stand. An announcement was made over the tannoy saying something like 'could fans in the south West corner please return to their seats, stay seated and remain calm'. The next thing I know seats are being ripped out and thrown towards the Newcastle fans.

Violence in stadiums these days is rare although I see a fair bit of hooliganism outside but I thought police were loosing control on this day. You could see police running into different stands as scuffles broke out, Newcastle fans probably loosing their heads and celebrating leading to fights across the stadium.

People didn't even bother returning to their seats and police barely tried to make them, probably happy missiles had stopped but Newcastle scored a 4th and it was an undescribeable feeling, surreal, it felt like the world had fell apart around me, empty and fans went beserk and ran to the bar towards the turnstiles and ran outside.

A few minutes later fans came running back in, bleeding some of them. Apparently they attacked Newcastle fans outside and police charged them back into the stadium. The final whistle went and fans left the sadium roaring 'We hate geordies', it was very tense and I waited around outside Joans Cafe on Millenium way to see what was going on. Thousands of fans had gathered here facing police lines, missiles being thrown, most chanting 'let the mags out' as Newcastle were locked in the stadium to prevent an all out battle.

Horse charges and baton charges drove the crowd away but seemed to regroup on the bridge, at St. Peters knowing Newcastle fans had to come here to get the metro home. Some pushing and shoving between fans and police, some things thrown and police charged fans along the bridge. Big mistake as fans just decided if they couldn't get Newcastle then they'd just rampage. Cars and buses on the bridge were attacked, one bus was heading to South Sheilds, tyneside with a sizeable Newcastle support in that area. The bus windows were smashed, door kicked in when the bus stopped as cars had things thrown off them, they were kicked, a fence thrown off the front of a car.

The paper said a Newcastle fans coach was bricked and a stewards car smashed up as well. Police finally acted again and charged the crowd right into the city centre. A bin behind a pub was emptied and the bottles thrown towards the police, I saw huge chunks of rock hitting the horses. At this point I left and walked home, numb with shock with how the team collapsed so badly and thinking this was easily the worst scenes I've seen at the Stadium of Light, certainly inside the stadium.

The paper said that fans smashed things up in the city centre and that 50 fans attacked Newcastle fans at Sunderland central station as well. The police said the operation was a 'success'.

The passion, joy, fury and violence of the day really confirmed to me this is the biggest derby in the country, Millwall - West Ham being the only other to come even close.

Report added : 21 May 2006
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