Football: Pardew bids to avoid unwanted record for derby defeats

Newcastle United's manager Alan Pardew

NEWCASTLE, United Kingdom - Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has set his sights on avoiding an unwanted record in the Tyne-Wear derby against Sunderland on Sunday.

Pardew's side have been beaten by hated local rivals Sunderland in each of their last three meetings and no Newcastle boss has ever lost four derbies in a row.

Two seasons ago, Sunderland's manager Paolo Di Canio famously ruined an expensive suit by sliding along the touchline after Stephane Sessegnon scored their opening goal in a 3-0 win, while Gus Poyet was in charge of another 3-0 success for the Black Cats earlier this year.

Pardew, who also oversaw a 2-1 defeat last season, would dearly love to be the manager celebrating at St James' Park this weekend in a fixture he regards as one of the most heated in world football.

"I've been lucky enough to play in cup finals, but if any manager asked me, 'What's the biggest game you've been involved in', I'd say Newcastle v Sunderland," Pardew said.

"The electricity of this game really is something else, and you have to be at it to appreciate it. I'm looking forward to experiencing that again, but not so much if you lose.

"Particularly around Christmas time when it's goodwill to all men, the gravy is going to be a bit lumpy if we lose, so it's important to win."

While the odds on another 3-0 Sunderland victory on Sunday are 55-1, Poyet would settle for success by any scoreline after five draws and a defeat in Sunderland's last six league games.

Sunderland's problem, as so often this season, will be locating the firepower needed to unlock a Premier League defence, even Newcastle's which has conceded eight goals in their two games.

Adam Johnson, one Sunderland player who knows how to score at St James' Park after being on target in the last two Tyneside derbies, loves the occasion.

"I try to concentrate on it as I would for any other game, but you can always feel it's a little bit extra special on game day," he said.

"For a lot of the fans, this is the only game that matters."

Colback in the spotlight

Newcastle's former Sunderland midfielder Jack Colback scored an excellent goal for the Black Cats last season against the team he supported as a youngster.

However, Colback is now a Newcastle player and would love to make amends for last season's goal by scoring one against his old club.

The midfielder expects to be a target for abuse from Sunderland's travelling supporters, but Pardew believes he will cope with the situation.

"I have no worries about Jack Colback, I think he's handled himself impeccably since the transfer," Pardew said.

"He conducted himself brilliantly after the criticism that came from Sunderland, and the way he's conducted himself in terms of his performances for us has been absolutely fabulous.

"I'm looking forward to seeing him in a Newcastle shirt on Sunday."

Newcastle are in the top half of the Premier League after an excellent run of results in November that earned the Manager of the Month award for Pardew.

Yet, such is the hunger for success among Newcastle supporters, that he finds himself under pressure again after heavy defeats at Arsenal and Tottenham in the past week.

Much will depend on how 21-year-old goalkeeper Jak Alnwick performs after making a dreadful mistake for Tottenham's opening goal in the League Cup quarter-final defeat at White Hart Lane in midweek.

"I've seen many better goalies than Jak make a similar error and not get punished because there was a defender there," Pardew said.

"Unfortunately for him it ended up in the back of the net, so there's pressure on him for that mistake and the fact that he's third choice here.

"He will deal with it. He's a strong enough character to do that."