REFEREE Anthony Taylor will take charge of his first Tyne Wear derby when Newcastle host Sunderland this weekend.
The 36-year-old from Cheshire will be in the middle when Alan Pardew’s side face their bitter north East rivals on Sunday at St James’s Park.
He will be assisted by 2010 World Cup final linesmen Darren Cann (Norfolk) and Mike Mullarkey (Devon) on Tyneside while the fourth official will be Kevin Friend (Leicestershire).
Cann oversaw his final game as a Fifa assistant referee last week as part of Martin Atkinson’s officiating team for the Champions League match between Barcelona and PSG at the Nou Camp having reached the mandatory retirement age of 45.
Mullarkey was in the spotlight yesterday for failing to spot that Juan Mata was offside for Manchester United’s second goal in their 3-0 victory over Liverpool at Old Trafford.
Only Atkinson has taken charge of more Premier League games than the 12 officiated by Taylor so far this season.
Taylor – from Wythenshawe in Greater Manchester – has become a more prominent member of the Select Group of officials having been entrusted with some high-profile matches in the past 12 months.
He took control of leaders Chelsea’s 2-1 victory over Liverpool last month but was criticised by Reds boss Brendan Rodgers for failing to award a penalty for a late handball by Gary Cahill.
His last top-flight match was the eventful encounter between Stoke and Arsenal on December 6 – in which he awarded the Gunners a penalty and sent off their defender Calum Chambers for a second bookable offence (his only red card of the campaign).
Last weekend, Taylor was the fourth official to Bobby Madley for Swansea’s clash with Tottenham at the Liberty Stadium.
It is widely regarded among refereeing circles that the appointment is deserved based on a series of consistent performances this term.
Taylor has only dropped into the Football League once in 2014/15 for the goalless draw between Midlands rivals Wolves and Birmingham at the start of November.
The Altrincham FC supporter has overseen both teams once this season – Sunderland’s goalless draw with Burnley in September and Newcastle’s victory at Tottenham a month later.
This is a fifth full season as a Premier League referee for Taylor, who had previously been on the National List since 2006-07.
Following his first in April 2010, he has gone on to officiate over 80 top-flight games and progressed into one of the more experienced campaigners – with an inclusion on the Fifa list coming in 2013.
Taylor will be tasked with keeping highly-charged emotions in check in what is widely renowned as a fiesty and tempestuous fixture – which has produced five red cards in the last eight Premier League contests.
Last season, referee Lee Probert also made his Tyne Wear derby debut in the first showdown of the campaign as the Black Cats ran out 2-1 winners at the Stadium of Light in October.
In February, Phil Dowd was appointed to the clash at St James’s Park in which Sunderland ran out 3-0 winners – with their opening goal by on-loan Liverpool striker Fabio Borini coming from the penalty spot.
Gus Poyet’s team are searching for a fourth successive league victory over Newcastle for the first time since the 1920s.
The 153rd meeting between the two sides will kick off at 13:30 BST on Sunday, with coverage on Sky Sports 1 commencing an hour earlier.