During the 12 years I have lived and worked in the North East, I have had the privilege of covering most of the Tyne-Wear derbies over that time period. I say this sincerely, being a football fan, and having my team loyalties based outside of the region with my hometown club of Bradford, I view these fixtures with neutrality. Along with the other football clubs of the region, I like to see the local teams perform well and I have happy memories of the seasons when Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough were all part of the Premier League, and Hartlepool and Darlington were in the current league division two meaning there were a total of eight North East derby fixtures on the calendar. Sadly, I feel it will be some years before either the three former, or the two latter teams are part of the same respective leagues again.
It's not easy to put a finger on why the teams of the region have experienced such a lack of success over the years. With regard to the larger three clubs, they have certainly invested money on players and managers, and from my experience of going to games, the passion and noise generated by the fans is second to none. With eight games to go in the Premier League and Sunderland and Newcastle occupying 18th and 19th place respectively, the odds are firmly against even one of the two clubs staving off relegation.
Having attended relegation matches in the North East before, as a photographer it is certainly not a pretty sight and, I would much prefer to document successful winning teams.
Coverage of a derby match always starts a couple of hours before kick off as the fans of the two teams come into contact outside of the stadium. In recent years, there has always been a huge police presence so it is rare that physical contact takes place between them. Much noise, shouting, gesturing and chanting takes place with reference to recent results between the sides and topical issues that have plagues the clubs - all good subject matter for emotive images. A rush back to the wireroom within the bowels of the ground to quickly send these pictures out to publications follows before taking a position at the side of the pitch.
These positions are marked by the leaving of a seat or monopod by a photographer in the allocated areas behind either goal - etiquette then dictates that this is your position for the start of the match. For a big game with much interest from the media and therefore lots of photographers, it is necessary to 'leave your marker' up to three hours before the kick off time.
Once the game commences, and especially if the two teams are evenly matched, there is a good deal of luck involved in the position you have chosen to sit. Football in particular can be an extremely unpredictable sport as a goal can be scored from almost anywhere on the pitch at any moment. Likewise, once a player scores, there usually isn't any pattern to how they then celebrate and in which direction they run.
Fortunately for me, in this particular derby game I was at the right end of the ground for both goals in the 1-1 draw that ensued and therefore managed to capture the majority of the decisive moments of the match. If only this was always the case. A good couple of hours captioning, editing and sending the pictures out to publications and thanks to an early kick off I was back home for dinnertime.