Written by Rhys Melhuish (@RhysMelhuish22)
A lot has been made of Newcastle’s torrid philosophy and record when it comes to participation in domestic cup action over recent years.
The FA Cup in particular has been a painful watch for Newcastle fans lately. I struggle to remember us advancing past the 4th round for a while now.
For a prestigious tournament that is certainly one winnable by sides such as ourselves, it is implausible to shun it in order to guarantee Premier League status, and the fortunes that come with it.
Yet, that is what the club have come to believe. And so, our crippling wait for silverware goes on.
With McClaren’s introduction to the St. James’ Park hotseat in the summer, there was a statement from the club that their philosophy would change. It seemed to ring somewhat truthfully, as strong sides (on paper anyway) were put out in our Capital One Cup ties earlier this season. Even against the likes of lowly Northampton, whose manager praised us for showing respect in fielding the side we did.
Yes, that particular cup “adventure” ended in pretty embarrassing circumstances; but I wouldn’t have put that down to presenting a weakened side for the cup, more down to the players horrifically under-performing on the night.
The FA Cup rolls around again this Saturday as Newcastle face a tough trip to one of the year’s surprise packages, Watford.
The club have often argued that so-called “lesser” clubs who advance in the cup competitions tend to struggle in the league. Both Wigan Athletic and Birmingham City suffered cup triumph and relegation heartbreak in the same seasons.
With the club being well-and-truly in the relegation dogfight, and next season’s Premier League TV jackpot at stake, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a team similar to that against Leicester last January fielded, and the cup therefore surrendered to focus on survival.
But I would argue that an FA Cup run could actually save our season. Look at the effect Aston Villa’s run to Wembley had on their league campaign, they were almost certainly doomed this time last year, but the cup run got the confidence flowing in the team again. In the end, they survived comfortably.
Why couldn’t this happen to us? It’s not as if FA Cup football congests your calendar, is it? You still play at the weekends (with the exception of replays), as opposed to your three-game week scenario with League Cup football.
And we all know what FA Cup weekends are like when your club isn’t involved in them…
Obviously a trip to Watford is going to be tough regardless of what side we play, but I want us to at least have a go.
I don’t mind a couple changes here and there, the likes of Thauvin and Mbabu are more than welcome to be given a chance of 90 minutes. But if poor Lubo Satka and Callum Roberts are thrown in at the deep-end as they were in last year’s 3rd Round bow-out, I won’t be impressed.
Should we field a strong side, and the Hornets are simply better than us on the day, so be it.
But this could be a great chance for us to get the good feeling flowing through Newcastle United again, and the club would be foolish not to at least give their all to try and take it.