Fans joined forces on Tuesday 9th December to say, yes, we want an intimidating, hostile atmosphere at the Tyne-Wear derby, but that can happen without violence.
A Derby To Be Proud Of heard tales from ex-pros Kevin Ball and Lee Howey, who spoke about their experiences of these games, while supporters found much common ground on allocations and high prices for away fans.
This excerpt from The Times' George Caulkin summed the event up brilliantly:
"In a Newcastle pub on Tuesday evening, there was an informal get-together under the “A Derby To Be Proud Of” banner. There was an update from Kevin Miles, the FSF’s (black-and-white) chief executive, and a form of mission statement; this was not about “happy-clappy” platitudes but preserving the intensity and hostility of the atmosphere “without resorting to violence”, about protecting freedoms. There was a word, too, about the “exploitation”, of £47 match tickets.
"Most of all, it was funny. Kevin Ball, the former Sunderland captain, and Steve Howey, Wearside-born, but an England international for Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle, swapped stories and anecdotes about these highly charged matches and what they meant, the chants, the songs, the skirmishes on the pitch, which even now follow and are part of them. It is rarely possible, but it was refreshing to laugh about those games amongst representatives of both clubs, a pint in hand.
"There were some good, edgy lines. “No more police costs, no more veterinary bills,” said Ball, a reference to Bud the horse and the infamous punching episode of 2013. Steve, whose brother, Lee, played for Sunderland, related a recent journey to Lagos, Nigeria, where he was coaching. He had been driven to the British Embassy for a function and as he waited outside there was a tuneless, jovial rendition of “Lee Howey, Lee Howey, Lee Howey, your brother is a c***.” Even there.
"When they walked off the stage, Ball and Howey held hands. It was a knowing joke; nobody wants the derby to be emasculated, to be robbed of its ferocity or vibrancy, to lose its essence but, equally, it should not be a repository for bile. There are common causes, from safety, policing, pricing, to standing up for good sense. In the right circumstances, there can also be laughter; it is not a betrayal."
Gallery from A Derby To Be Proud Of: