TODAY is a massive match. The first time Sunderland and Newcastle have faced each other in the FA Cup for nearly 70 years.

Passions will run high, and understandably so, although we hope that, for the sake of the reputation of the clubs and the region, they are not allowed to run wild.

There is, though, for the supporters, a huge amount of local pride at stake, and the importance of the game is magnified by the fact that the whole country will be watching the encounter on terrestrial television. There will be no hiding from the result.

It is very easy to misunderstand and misjudge the mood of football fans, as Sunderland did this week as they appeared to put corporate hospitality before the partisan pride of the home stadium by creating a bar extolling the virtues of Newcastle United in the Stadium of Light.

However, we are sure that the fans will understand exactly why the two clubs are uniting before kick-off as two families who have lost their youngsters to knife crime – one black-and-white supporters and the other from the red-and-white side – to remind the crowd of the dangers and the horrors of this terrible offence which, also, is often a terrible accident.

The game on the pitch is absolutely crucial to so many, and it is to be hoped that it can live up to expectations and be enjoyed by all, whatever the result. But some things are more important than football, more important than even the pride and passion of a local derby, and life and death is one of them.