Hartlepool United was absorbed into greater Sunderland AFC last night in a move described as an 'historic union of ethnically north eastern football supporters' by Sunderland's leader Paolo Di Canio.
It is understood that Sunderland and Hartlepool will enter a single team into the football league next season which will be known as 'Sunderland'. Di Canio has confirmed that Hartlepool fans will be compelled to support the new team.
As tensions rise, Newcastle United's attitude could be crucial in shaping Di Canio's future demands as he ponders moves to protect the interests of Sunderland supporters living in nearby Middlesbrough. Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has been muted in his response telling reporters that he didn't have a clear view of the incident.
Middlesbrough have moved to beef up their defences by signing American centre half Harry Sherman on emergency loan.