IRELAND'S Sunderland star James McClean can't wait for another massive footballing experience as he takes part in his first Tyne-Wear derby, four days after his Irish debut.
The Black Cats travel to St James's Park tomorrow for a noon kick-off and the impressive youngster is excited about getting to experience a massive contest in England's north-east.
"I am expecting that. I know the rivalry up there now having been there six months, and it's really intense," he said.
"But I am looking forward to it. I can't wait. It's another experience in my career.
"They are really passionate about the derby up in the north-east and we will go there and hopefully bounce back from a disappointing defeat (at West Bromwich Albion last weekend)."
McClean's boss and boyhood Sunderland fan Martin O'Neill was impressed with the massive ovation McClean received as a second half substitute at the Aviva.
O'Neill said: "He has become very, very popular -- and he hadn't kicked a ball at that time, so I know when he really does well for them, it will be good news."
O'Neill knows a thing or two about derby fixtures. He has masterminded victories in various East Anglia, East Midlands, Old Firm and Second City encounters during his career and tomorrow will look to add a Tyne-Wear success against Newcastle United to that collection.
However, history suggests it will not be easy.
The last time the Wearsiders made the short journey to face their fierce rivals in October 2010 they were beaten 5-1, and they are without a win on Tyneside since November 2000.
"I've experienced an awful lot of derbies as a player and a manager, and obviously a very big derby in terms of European, if not world football, in the Glasgow derby between Celtic and Rangers," O'Neill said.
"This is a particularly big game, there's no denying that. It's a ferocious derby and probably played at great pace.
"Given the result on the last occasion it was played there, you would be going in with some trepidation.
"Speaking to people, it was one of those cases where we froze on the day and that's something we want to avoid.
"We have to go to compete. If we don't compete we'll lose the game."
O'Neill's side go into tomorrow's game 10 points behind their rivals, with fans desperate for bragging rights and to gain ground in the league.
"What I could never really understand about some supporters is that it was the be-all and end-all," O'Neill said. "Some supporters of Celtic actually felt that if you could beat Rangers in the game, it didn't matter if you won the league or not, and I could never subscribe to that viewpoint."