MICHAEL BEALE will take charge of his first game as Sunderland head coach when Coventry City visit the Stadium of Light on Saturday – but the new boss admits he has already cast half-an-eye on a certain other game that is looming in early January.

On January 6, Sunderland will host their bitter rivals Newcastle United in the third round of the FA Cup, with the two sides having been paired together in this month’s draw.

It will be the first meeting between the two sides since a 1-1 draw at St James’ Park in March 2016, and the first derby game at the Stadium of Light since goals from Adam Johnson, Billy Jones and Steven Fletcher earned the Black Cats a 3-0 win in October 2015.


Sam Allardyce was the Sunderland manager that day, having only been appointed a few weeks earlier, and since then, eight permanent bosses have come and gone without getting the opportunity to preside over a derby fixture.

Beale will get to experience the unique derby atmosphere within his first month as head coach, and while there are four Championship matches between now and the visit of the Magpies, the newly-appointed boss admits he is already looking forward to next month’s Wear-Tyne showdown.

“You could be Sunderland manager and never get to play a derby,” he said. “How fortunate am I to have this opportunity? And how fortunate is this young group of players to be able to play in a derby? How fortunate are the fans of both clubs that this game is in the eyeline as well?

“The FA Cup is a competition that we all grew up loving. Maybe it’s lost a little bit in the last few years – but it certainly won’t have lost anything on the 6th of January when that game comes around. We’ve got a lot of football before that, but it’s fair to say that it’s already been mentioned a couple of times.”