Allardyce: It's not just about survival it's saving people's jobs
Sam Allardyce warned it would be devastating for the Premier League if either Newcastle or Sunderland were relegated and revealed he felt under huge pressure to keep Sunderland in the top flight as hundreds of jobs were at stake.
In a corner of England that has still not recovered from a deep recession, Allardyce fears what would happen to the club and city if Sunderland lost their Premier League status just before a new television deal kicked in.
As manager, Allardyce is hoping to lead his team to their first win of the season over opponents they have beaten five times in a row. But, while he wants to drag Newcastle - who he also managed for a spell in 2007 - deeper into relegation trouble, he claimed the Premier League would be worse off without either of these two traditional football giants of the North.
His most pressing concern, though, was how to save a Sunderland side who are bottom of the table and carrying the embarrassment of being the only professional team in England not to have won a league game this season.
"My responsibility is bigger than just survival, it's saving people's jobs," said Allardyce.
"There's hundreds of staff that work here that would severely have to be cut and trimmed back if we got relegated. I have that responsibility. These will be Sunderland fans who have been working here for a long time, who love this place. I have a big responsibility to them, to try to make sure that their jobs are safe."
A victory in the derby would ease their immediate concerns and Allardyce argued that the Tyne-Wear derby was one of English football's great occasions.
"This is a game that has never not been on the TV, so I think that tells you the importance of it straight away," Allardyce said.
"It is always live on the TV because everybody knows across the country what a derby this one is. I think everybody looks out for it. How did the Sunderland-Newcastle derby finish? Who's done what?"
Allardyce joined a growing number of people who fear football is losing its traditional powerbases in the North.
"Sadly, there's not been a Premier League team in Yorkshire for quite a while now apart from Hull," said Allardyce.
"That's a real shame. There used to be a huge amount, but those days have gone. You really wouldn't want that to happen up here. It's really important that both Sunderland and Newcastle stay in the Premier League. It's critical that both clubs retain their status for this part of the world.
"The North West has really faltered as well. In my time at Bolton, there were more Premier League clubs in the North West than anywhere else in the country. It wasn't just the big four in Manchester and Liverpool, it was Bolton, Blackburn, Wigan, Burnley and Blackpool."
In many ways, Allardyce faces a thankless task in his first derby as Sunderland manager because the club have become used to beating their neighbours.
"Sunderland's run is the best in their history, and the clubs are both over 100 years old," added Allardyce. "It's the most successful run Sunderland have ever had against Newcastle, and it's my responsibility to try to keep it up." (©Daily Telegraph, London)