Newcastle United League Cup Special: Seven Games From Silverware

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“To win a league you have to win 38 games, to win a cup, six or seven very good games and you can be there. Winning one was the highlight of my career — an unbelievable feeling. We want that.”

Steve McClaren, BBC Newcastle

When Mike Ashley declared in his SKY interview that he wouldn’t leave Newcastle until the club had won a cup or qualified for the Champions League, few envisaged that he’d back his words up to the tune of Newcastle being the fourth biggest summer transfer spenders in world football after Real Madrid, AC Milan and Manchester City.

Yet the arrival of Georginio Wijnaldum, Chancel Mbemba, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Florian Thauvin for fees north of £10M each did exactly that and have helped transform a mood of gloom that had descended upon Newcastle’s fan-base into one of genuine hope and optimism. Not forgetting Ivan Toney, the £500K sharp-shooter diamond in the rough poached from Northampton Town, who were drawn as Newcastle’s first opponents in the Capital One Cup two days after he joined the club.

Newcastle United League Cup Special

Steve McClaren is nothing if not a realist and his mathematical breakdown of the number of games it will take to break Newcastle’s 46-year trophy curse shows the pragmatism that helped him deliver Middlesbrough’s first major trophy after 128 years without one.

With Newcastle not involved in Europe unlike the majority of last season’s top teams, The Magpies can have a proper run in the cups unhindered by distractions.It might be the most realistic option for success for a team paired against six of last season’s top eight in the first eight Premier League games of the season.

Is fixture fate deciding Newcastle’s path to success this season?

McClaren’s Middlesbrough ultimately prospered in the League Cup in 2004 while a UEFA Cup-embroiled Newcastle and Sir Bobby Robson rested Alan Shearer in their Carling Cup third round match against West Brom and lost 2-1 after extra-time.

In recent seasons, the Newcastle hierarchy have been accused of not taking the cups seriously and have defended their approach of prioritizing the league to avoid jeopardizing their Premier League status yet an impressive 2-0 win at the Etihad against holders Manchester City last October was a highlight of the season. Nevertheless, a sea-change in policy is anticipated this year and The Magpies are expected to attack the cups with gusto.

Steve McClaren said in his press conference yesterday:

“We will be putting out our strongest team possible, taking into account Saturday, this weekend & the strength in the squad.”

On Saturday Newcastle face Arsenal at home in the Premier League in the early kick-off so some squad rotation will no doubt be in effect although resting players whom McClaren believes still have an extra 20% of sharpness to come may not be necessary. New signing Florian Thauvin could be in line to make his first start for the club after his impressive cameo at Old Trafford while players like Karl Darlow, Jamaal Lascelles or Mike Williamson may get a run out and Siem De Jong could be given the chance to gain match fitness.

As for the League Cup, Toney especially will be looking forward to the visit of The Cobblers a month after the transfer that saw him swap the League Two bus for the Premier League’s elite limo. After a handful of U21 appearances in which he has impressed coach Peter Beardsley, Toney will naturally hoping to be involved in some capacity against his former club.

The Geordie Legend has been impressed with the 19-year-old’s willingness to have a go:

“I really like what I’ve seen from him so far. He’s big, strong and shoots on sight, but he can also create and put a couple of great crosses in, which we could have scored from.”

A real go is exactly what Newcastle fans want from their club after waiting 46 years for that first elusive major trophy since Bob Moncur lifted The Fairs Cup in 1969.

If McClaren’s past trophy-winning at Middlesbrough and FC Twente was a critical factor in him landing the biggest and best job in North-East football then his first competitive win for the club against Northampton is essential and should set up the kind of cup run Geordies love.