Sam Allardyce’s arrival at Sunderland has sparked big improvements at the Stadium of Light, most notably in defence where the Black Cats have kept three clean sheets in their last five matches.
Newcastle, however, are up against it and successive 3-0 and 5-1 losses to Leicester City and Crystal Palace leave them second from bottom and utterly devoid of any confidence.
Writing in his column for the Independent, Higginbotham feels Newcastle’s recruitment policy has laid the foundations for their struggles and pinpoints a real lack of fight in comparison to rivals Sunderland.
“Newcastle worry me because their recruitment over the past four seasons reveals a total lack of appreciation in Premier League experience,” the former defender explained.
“Only one of the 24 players they have signed permanently in that time came with Premier League experience. I think, and what it translates into is a mentality ill equipped for this division.”
“There is an utter lack of leaders on the pitch. It won’t make it easier for Steve McClaren that Sunderland look good to escape the mess they are in because in Sam Allardyce they have a manager who knows what the survival fight is like. McClaren has never had to fight for survival like Allardyce.”
On the balance of it, a betting man would be wise to back Sunderland’s survival bid over Newcastle.
While the Magpies may arguably possess more quality, especially in the form of attacking options, there is a real sense of unbalance within their squad and lack of real leadership.
Sunderland, on the other hand, have plenty of spirit and their midfield duo of Lee Cattermole and Yann M’Vila illustrates exactly the sort of fighting spirit needed to beat the drop.
The Black Cats have won three of their last five league matches, and there would be some willing to back them to pick up another positive result against an injury-struck Arsenal this weekend.
Newcastle are really up against it as they face a rampant Liverpool side on Sunday.