Former Newcastle defender suggests which North East club is better equipped to stay up

Ex-Magpies man Steve Howey believes his old side have the better players, but claims arch-rivals Sunderland have the fighting spirit needed to survive.

Former Newcastle United defender Steve Howey has told the Shields Gazette that although he feels his old side have got a better squad than Sunderland, it is their arch-rivals who have the better chance of avoiding relegation because of their fighting spirit.

Both North East sides find themselves in a horribly perilous situation with just seven matches remaining, with the Black Cats four points adrift of safety and the Magpies a further two points behind.

Last weekend's results only served to deepen the worries of the two clubs, as Newcastle suffered a hugely damaging last-minute defeat to 17th-place Norwich City whilst Sunderland failed to break down a stubborn West Bromwich Albion and wer held to a goalless draw at home.

Howey, who was born in Sunderland but spent the majority of his playing career at St. James' Park where he made nearly 250 appearances for Newcastle, suggested that the derby day 1-1 draw between the rivals last month did not do either side any favours.

The 44-year-old is seriously concerned for the future of both clubs if they fall through the trapdoor, but revealed that he thinks it is Sam Allardyce's side who have the best chance of survival because of their emphasis on fight over quality.

Howey told the Gazette: "It is a pretty dire situation. Newcastle’s result at Norwich certainly didn’t help them and it didn’t help Sunderland either.

"There is a big chance both will go down and it would be devastating for the area to lose one, never mind two. The Championship is such a difficult, horrible league to get out of. The games are constant.”

"I think Newcastle have better players ability-wise, but Sunderland are better equipped because they have that grittiness to dig out results."

Both clubs will be desperate to return to winning ways in their respective fixtures this weekend as the final curtain draws ever closer to falling on the season.

Sunderland have an immensely difficult task in store when they face league leaders and title-chasers Leicester City at the Stadium of Light, whilst face a tricky trip to Southampton.

Both clubs have an ace up their sleeve in the form of a game in hand over Norwich, but with one of the two North East sides likely to go down, there is an almighty scrap in store over the next six weeks.

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