Derby a must-win for Newcastle boss Carver

By John Howell.

It’s been yet another season without progress for Newcastle United, but a victory over bitter rivals Sunderland in the Tyne-Wear derby on Sunday will go some way towards re-engaging a disenchanted fanbase and restoring some local pride. It may also keep John Carver in a job.

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Newcastle recorded their last victory against their big rivals on 20th August 2011, drawing twice and losing the last four consecutive derbies against Sunderland since.

The fierce support and proud history of both clubs makes the Tyne-Wear derby one of the most anticipated fixtures on the Premier League calendar and for Toon manager, John Carver, it is the one game he knows he can’t afford to lose if his contract is to be extended in May. As a devoted servant of the Magpies, the 50-year-old has been associated with the club in one capacity of another over the past 23 years.

Raised in Cruddas Park, Newcastle upon Tyne, Carver grew up in the shadow of St James’ Park and signed for his hometown club when he was just 16, but he failed to make a senior appearance. Although his professional career cruelly ended four years later whilst playing for Cardiff City, it did not quell his ambition to return to his beloved Newcastle.

Carver landed the role of director at Newcastle’s School of Excellence in 1992. He became assistant manager to Sir Bobby Robson seven years later, during one of the clubs most celebrated eras, challenging for silverware and battling with Europe’s elite in the Champions League until the legendary manager’s departure in 2004.

Carver found himself back in the St James’ Park dugout as right-hand man to Alan Pardew in 2011 and hasn’t looked back since. With the former midfielder opting to return south and manage his old Crystal Palace, he has been in permanent charge of the Newcastle first team since late January. Carver’s record so far does not make for good reading for Toon fans: he has won three, drawn three and lost six, including four out of his last five in his 12 games in charge.

But Newcastle and Carver will take hope from the old cliche that form typically goes out of the window come derby day. Two years ago, a seemingly doomed Sunderland visited St James’ Park and turned Tyneside upside down with a devastating 3-0 defeat of Newcastle, which was to be the start of their ongoing derby dominance.

Toon fans will demand the inconsistencies that have hampered this season’s progress are replaced with fire, raw passion and the will to win at any cost at the Stadium of Light. And if anybody knows the mentality of the Newcastle faithful, it is the man currently in charge.

Many criticised Pardew for his dismal derby record, declaring he did not understand the significance of the game. That criticism can’t be levelled at Carver, who has lived and breathed this fixture for nearly half a century, whether watching his boyhood club on TV in his living room or pacing the dugout.

With all of this in mind, it is no wonder why April 5th is so important to the Black & White side of the North East. With a win, there is hope; bragging rights are theirs for the rest of the season and Monday’s papers will be forgiving. Lose and the season is lost. The winless streak against their bitter enemy continues – and sadly, Carver may never get another chance to etch his name into derby day history.

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