At the end of May, there was a strong possibility of three teams from the north east playing in the Premier League this season before Middlesbrough lost to Norwich in the Championship play-off final.
Just a few months later and it now seems more likely that there will be three teams from the region in the Championship next season, rather than the top flight, given the way Newcastle and Sunderland have started their respective campaigns.
With five games gone, the local rivals occupy the bottom two places in the table, with Newcastle slipping to the foot of the standings after losing 2-0 at West Ham.
Newcastle have yet to halt their torrid run of form in 2015, even after the appointment of Steve McClaren as manager. In 24 Premier League games in the calendar year, Newcastle have won just three and a run of nine defeats in 10 matches towards the end of last season dragged them into the relegation fight.
So far this season, Newcastle have been shown as many red cards as goals scored – two. After a 2-2 draw at home to Southampton in their opening game, Newcastle have gone four games without a goal and the only bright spot has been a 0-0 draw away to Manchester United.
A lack of investment in the squad can’t really be attributed to the poor start Newcastle have made under McClaren. In a rare show of extravagance, Newcastle spent heavily in the summer to bring Georginio Wijnaldum, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Chancel Mbemba and Florian Thauvin to the club. They also retained the majority of their key players from last season as well.
On that basis, the blocks should be in place to enjoy a positive season after last year’s turmoil, but it’s not yet clicking for McClaren and it’s going to be interesting to see how much time he is given to turn it around.
McClaren has had a chequered managerial career and, with games against Chelsea and Manchester City on the horizon, the former Middlesbrough boss will need to quickly start making steps forward.
As for Sunderland, scoring goals hasn’t been an issue as they have scored more than Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham. But keeping them out the other end is the reason for their position in 19th place, with only Chelsea conceding more goals after five games.
Dick Advocaat performed an excellent job in keeping Sunderland up last season after the team picked up 12 points from their final eight games. But the Dutchman has been unable to carry that momentum in the current campaign.
Like McClaren, Advocaat has been given room to improve his squad and the likes of Yann M’Vila and Jeremain Lens do look to have made Sunderland stronger.
The fixture list does appear to be slightly kinder towards Sunderland over the next few weeks ahead of the first derby meeting at the Stadium of Light on October 25.
If both clubs are still struggling in the bottom three when that fixture comes around, though, it would be no surprise to see the losing manager seriously under pressure for their job.