ALAN Pardew says only the Old Firm derbies can match the fervour of a Tyne-Wear clash.
Newcastle United take on Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Sunday.
Pardew’s played and managed in London derbies.
But those games don’t compare to this fixture, according to Pardew, who has likened the North-East rivalry to that between Celitc and Rangers.
And he’s relishing what is certain to be another “ferocious” atmosphere at the Stadium of Light, where Newcastle won 1-0 last season thanks to a stunning Ryan Taylor free-kick.
The fixture doesn’t have the profile of an Old Firm game.
However, having experienced three derbies first-hand, Pardew – whose Sunderland counterpart, Martin O’Neill, managed Celtic – is adamant they are every bit as intense.
“I explained it to someone in London the other day – It’s not like a London derby,” Pardew told the Gazette.
“I don’t know, why. Maybe because it’s a city that has intense rivalry with the bordering city. They’re almost on top of each other.
“There’s certainly, on game day, a ferocious atmosphere about the game and passionate feeling that I’ve not experienced at any other game other than at a Glasgow game between Rangers and Celtic.
“It’s the only game that I’ve been to which I can compare with this.”
Pardew’s finalising his team selection for the game.
Fabricio Coloccini, Steven Taylor and Tim Krul could return to his starting XI.
And derby talisman Shola Ameobi, pictured, is a contender to start given his incredible record in fixtures between the two sides.
Ameobi’s injury-time strike in last season’s game at St James’s Park took his Tyne-Wear goal tally to seven.
Only Jackie Milburn (11) has scored more league goals against Sunderland than Ameobi, who is vying with Demba Ba and Papiss Demba Cisse for a start.
Ameobi’s impressed in his last start against Bordeaux.
And asked if the 31-year-old had forced his way into his thinking, Pardew said: “I think he’s done that.
“Shola, Papiss and Demba, you could draw a line across them at the moment, and I wouldn’t put one in front of the other.” Ameobi came off the bench against Sunderland in March, and Pardew knows his substitutions could again prove decisive in the 147th derby.
He admits the changes he made in Newcastle’s last game – the 3-0 defeat to Manchester United – didn’t influence the game.
“If I have one criticism of myself in the last game, the three subs didn’t make a big enough impact,” said Pardew.
“That’s something, my substitutions, that I pride myself on. Mostly, I’ve been fortunate in getting those right, but I got that wrong against Man United.
“The art of today’s football is being tactically aware.
“You’re preparing as strong, if not better than the opposition, and you’re motivating your players, and that matchday, you make the right calls.
“That’s a really big part of football management.
“A lot of games are balanced by substitutions, and putting fresh players in at the right times, more so than any other time because of the level of the physical game.”
* Brendan Rodgers says he’s got no plans to recall Andy Carroll in January – despite Liverpool’s striker crisis.
Carroll joined West Ham on a season-long loan after Newcastle United’s bid to bring him back to St James’s Park was rejected.
Luis Suarez is Rodgers’s only fit forward, but Carroll won’t be recalled. Rodgers said: “It’s not something I’m considering.”