Newcastle United and Sunderland embark on their new Premier League season. Simon O'Rourke looks at the season ahead.
We don't do titles. We don't do cups. We don't often do top half. So why bother doing it at all? If failure and underachievement is all there is, why put ourselves through this relentless torture? Because nobody does it better. Nobody lives it, loves it and then messes it all up with more style than we do.
So, here we go again - and the latest North East assault on the Premier League is as deliciously unstable as ever. Newcastle United has employed a weapon of mass destruction in a middle-management position.
Sunderland has bet the mortgage on an Italian Revolution. The Black Cats’ area of uncertainty will be front and centre on the pitch. The Magpies’ main source of intrigue will be behind the scenes.
So there's massive scope for the traditional North East missteps, mistakes and mismanagement over the coming nine months. Or it might all go OK. That's the intriguing thing. The wider, national assumption is the standard "sit back and watch them shoot themselves in the foot".
But it is perhaps unwise to assume too much this summer. On the face of it, the return of Joe Kinnear to Newcastle as Director of Football is sheer lunacy. A very 20th Century football man is now the 21st Century business face of St James' Park.
It's beyond mad, past bizarre and a good distance through unbelievable. It's multi-millionaire mischief on a grand scale from Mike Ashley. The Magpies’ owner has previous form for dropping bombs, of course and he never, ever answers for himself. He has, presumably, enjoyed watching Joe unsettle everyone on Tyneside.
The wider, national assumption here is that Joe will wade in and rock the boat, Alan Pardew will take the blame and Joe will end up back in the manager's office. Actually,that's also the narrower, local assumption. But Pardew could play this to his advantage.
The arrival of a ready-made pantomime villain has taken the target off the manager's back. So if he keeps Joe where he wants him and where he can see him, if he can live with Joe's "I only answer to Mike Ashley" bravado, if he can get the man to actually complete some transfers and if Pardew himself can reinvigorate his talented but thin squad, then everything might work out alright.
I know, that's a lot of "ifs". But while Magpies fans have been dismayed by the lack of transfer activity, they do at least know pretty much what to expect from their team in the weeks ahead. Sunderland fans have no such certainty. Paolo DiCanio said he wanted to change everything at the end of last season. He was not kidding. Top to bottom, root and branch reform has swept through the Stadium and the Academy of Light. It's billed as the Italian Revolution and that's exactly what it is.
Revolution, not the usual evolution that takes place during Premier League summers. The Black Cats now train differently, they work differently, they'll play differently, they'll think differently and of course, a lot of them are actually different. Handfuls of new signings have arrived, handfuls of former alpha males have been moved on or marginalised.
There's a real sense locally that it’s exactly what the club needed. But there are absolutely no guarantees it will work. The wider national assumption seems to be that Head Coach Paolo Di Canio is a mad Italian who will at some point explode and that will be the end of that.
But Di Canio is not so easy to categorise. He's a deep football thinker who was the toast ofItaly's coaching academy. There's more to him than unrestrained, volcanic emotion. That's not to say he is not capable of erupting - but that only really adds to the excitement. This is change on a grand scale, which offers the possibility of extreme success and carries the risk of extreme failure.
It is a club not settling for more of the same, year after year. So if the new signings settle quickly, if everyone buys into the Di Canio work ethic, if they finally sign the full backs and the creative central midfielder they are still after and if they get off to a decent start so everyone begins to believe in the revolution, then everything might work out alright.
I know, that's a lot of "ifs". But if your glass isn't half-full at this time of year, before a ball has been kicked, then it never will be. The sky isn't the limit in the North East. The cups, the derbies and a sniff of Europe are our limit. And that's fine. So live it, love it and don't be surprised if they mess it all up again. But hope this is the year they don't mess it all up.