14/05/2013 08:36 BST | Updated 13/07/2013 06:12 BST

Safety Not Guaranteed: For Newcastle and Sunderland, Premier League survival is not enough


"You think your world is safe? It's an illusion. A comforting lie told to protect you."

Newcastle think they're safe - and they are, for this season at least. Sunderland should be too, although it's not yet guaranteed.

Premier League survival, however, is not something that either club should be celebrating.

Given the size of the clubs, the players, the money, the stadia, and - most importantly - the fans, survival should be the absolute minimum. This season, it shouldn't have been anywhere near the forefront of fans' minds.

Indeed, for the first half of the season, it arguably wasn't. Neither side did particularly well, but to think they would end up heading into the penultimate game of the season needing points was not a scenario many will have envisaged.

Newcastle were the proverbial 'surprise package' last year, mounting - for part of the season, at least - a serious challenge for a Champions League spot, ultimately finishing a still impressive 5th.

Sunderland finished a slightly disappointing 13th, but a cup run and a major upturn in fortunes following the December appointment of Martin O'Neill meant there was a lot of promise for the coming season.

The Black Cats strengthened considerably in the summer, spending big money on Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson.

Newcastle, however, did relatively little, perhaps understandably happy with their lot.

Steven Fletcher may have impressed, but Adam Johnson made little impact as the majority of the Sunderland team struggled. As for The Magpies, their decision to stick rather than twist was backfiring, with the likes of Papiss Cisse - so impressive last term - finding it difficult to regain that form.

Newcastle did strengthen in January, arguably more so than a side would like to in the winter, especially with the players all coming from a foreign league. Nonetheless, the signings of Debuchy and Sissoko et al did look impressive, and relative bargains.

Sunderland also 'strengthened', although given Danny Graham's form it's difficult to justify not only that term, but also his £5m price tag. Alfred N'Diaye has been hit and miss as he adapts to the Premier League; Kader Mangane is a myth, a fictional character created to increase pressure on Titus Bramble and Carlos Cuellar, to little effect.

Sunderland have had to resort to a change of manager; Newcastle have theirs for another seven years.

Di Canio's impact was almost immediate, with victories over Newcastle and Everton, but reality has bit back since then, especially with the shuddering 6-1 defeat to Aston Villa.

Pardew, meanwhile, has seemed increasingly like the caretaker who accidentally walked into a board meeting, only to be offered the top job, and now has no idea what he's doing.

Bringing in so many players in January has not paid dividends, with talk of a split in the camp. While the club has denied that exists, such divisions would hardly be a surprise. La Revolution now seems more like Les Miserables.

Despite this, though, they are safe. And, if Arsenal can beat Wigan, Sunderland will be as well. Even if Wigan do manage another upset, the Wearside club's goal difference is a big advantage.

It's not good enough, though, for these clubs simply survive. Despite both having had relegations in their recent history, they should be well-established Premier League clubs. They now need to make sure this is a one-off, and the mistakes of this season are not repeated.

The North East is spoken of as a hotbed of football. Now its clubs need to wake up.