As predicted several months ago the Boro’s fight to avoid Premier League relegation will now almost certainly go down to the dying embers of the campaign, but did anyone realise when the fixtures were published last June just how big our Tyne-Tees derby at Newcastle in May would be?
It is now looking fair to say that either one or both of Boro and the Skunks will be plying their trade in the Fizzy Pop league next season after disastrous campaigns. However with the dire Hull City and our other neighbours Sunderland obviously feeling left out of the relegation party, there is renewed hope of staying up still festering in the air!
Both clubs will be hopeful that the Black Cats and Tigers drop points in their respective games against Everton and Aston Villa this weekend because the chances of Boro securing anything against Manchester United and Newcastle at Liverpool look virtually non-existent!
Should both sides above the drop zone still be in touching distance going into the May 11 showdown at St James’ Park then it has to be argued that it is the biggest derby between the two clubs in the history of meetings between the sides.
It is as near to a winner-takes-all Cup final game as you can get and, while the winners will not be guaranteed survival, it would go a long way to helping the situation and could be worth anything between £30-50million – better than any tin pot trophy!
The closest game between Boro and Newcastle that I can recall in terms of importance is 19 years ago on May 5, 1990, at Ayresome Park. Boro had to win and hope Leeds beat Bournemouth in order to stay in the old Second Division, while the Magpies wanted three points to give them a chance of promotion to Division One.
I nervously watched that game from the South Terrace as a brace apiece from Bernie Slaven and Ian Baird helped us to a tremendous 4-1 win and guaranteed us survival after Leeds won 1-0 at Dean Court!
While it would be lovely to see a repeat, I feel Boro do not have the minerals in attack to score four goals, especially on their travels where they have only scored twice in 10 straight defeats!
The irony is everyone is talking about one side winning, but nobody has actually mentioned the possibility of a draw! No doubt the populations of Sunderland and Hull will be praying for exactly that! One thing is for sure: football betting on this one is likely to be split!
Written by Craig Smithson, a Middlesbrough season-ticket holder and a sports writer who blogs about football betting.