Sunderland own up after angry backlash over changes to suit Newcastle in FA Cup tie


Sunderland supporters have reacted angrily to pictures circulating on social media showing parts of the Stadium of Light which underwent a makeover to welcome local rivals Newcastle United. A fearsome Tyne-Wear derby promises to be one of the highlights of this weekend's FA Cup third-round action, and the Black Cats have been forced to issue a statement apologising for their 'error in judgment'.

Sunderland's 2016 relegation to the EFL has seen them avoid bitter foes Newcastle for almost eight years. The last time the Magpies took to the Stadium of Light pitch was back in October 2015, when the hosts won 3-0.

Much has changed in the years since - with Newcastle now backed by the mega-rich Saudi PIF - and both sets of supporters will be counting down the hours until their hotly-anticipated FA Cup showdown kicks off on Saturday afternoon.

But alterations to the ground have sent Sunderland fans into a frenzy, with changes made to make those travelling from Newcastle feel more comfortable on enemy territory.

Thousands of Toon fans will fill up an entire end of the ground this weekend, and a popular bar has been redecorated with black and white signs. One of them shows the traditional Sunderland supporters' greeting 'Ha'way' crossed out and replaced with the Geordie counterpart, 'Howay'.

Another sign tweaked the Black Cats' anthem 'Keep the red flag flying high' and made it 'Keep the black and white flying high'. Sunderland released a statement on Thursday afternoon owning up to their mistake and promising to restore the bar to its previous state.

Sunderland, buoyed by the appointment of Michael Beale in December, are unbeaten in their last three Championship games. They currently sit sixth in the second tier with hopes of making the play-offs and having a crack at a Premier League return.

Newcastle, meanwhile, are on a dreary run of three consecutive defeats as Eddie Howe struggles to grapple with persistent injury issues. The Magpies' unfancied neighbours may therefore be rubbing their hands together at the prospect of a possible cup upset.

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