Freddy Shepherd comments on Newcastle United v Sunderland clash

St James Park

The ex-Newcastle chief worries that the occasion might pass some overseas players by.

 

Former Newcastle United chairman Freddy Shepherd has suggested to talkSPORT that the Magpies' foreign contingent do not understand the bitter rivalry with Sunderland ahead of Sunday's must-win Tyne-Wear clash.

 

St James's Park plays host this weekend as Rafael Benitez's side host the Black Cats in perhaps the biggest and most important derby battle that either club has known in recent memory.

 

Newcastle sit 19th in the Premier League table, one point behind Sam Allardyce's men in 17th as the relegation battle hots up.

 

The omens certainly favour Sunderland, who have won their last six meetings with United, and Shepherd is fearful that Newcastle's foreign stars do not quite understand how big the match is as far as the rivalry goes.

 

Asked by talkSPORT if the overseas players know enough about the famous fixture and what it means, Shepherd bluntly responded: “No. Simple, no. but they will do at the weekend.

“This is a huge game for both clubs, and if we lose against Sunderland I think we’re in real trouble.

“At the moment we’ve got an escape route, and we’ll start to go along that with a win in the Sunderland game. But if don’t win in Newcastle we’ve got real problems.”

Benitez, who replaced the axed Steve McClaren on Friday, took charge of Newcastle for the first time on Monday night as the Magpies lost 1-0 at league leaders Leicester City.

It was not the ideal coronation for the Spanish manager, but there were promising signs in the performance and Shepherd, along with every Newcastle fan, will hope for more signs of progress on Sunday.

Register for NEWCASTLE UNITED team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch