NEWCASTLE: Reaching a semifinal is not enough for Newcastle United, that’s the view of head coach Eddie Howe who only has eyes for Wembley.
Bottom-of-the-table Southampton stand between the Magpies and a place in the final of the Carabao Cup, with the first leg of the last-four tie set for the south coast on Tuesday evening.
And Howe is refusing to take credit for guiding the club to the semifinal of the competition for the first time since 1976, because he’s got cup glory on his mind.
“We’re delighted to be where we are but the semifinal itself isn’t enough. I don’t think it’s enough for anybody,” said the United boss.
“To say you got to a semifinal means nothing. You want to get one step further. I know the players feel the same way. Me and my coaching team feel passionately about it, that we want to make the final but we have to navigate these two games and they are going to be very difficult.”
While United made a Europa League semi in 2004 and their last FA Cup one in 2005, there’s been a generational gap in the various guises of the trophy formerly known as the League Cup.
Howe said: “It is a long time and we are desperate to try and change that. Looking too far back and going too historical at this moment probably doesn’t serve us well.
“We are proud to be where we are but we want more. And all season, the players have shown that mentality themselves. They have never settled for or been pleased with anything but winning so that is a really healthy place to be. So Saturday we were disappointed we did not achieve our objective. Now we move onto another game and we are desperate to win.”
Two players who’ve come into contention after recent positive cameos off the bench are Allan Saint-Maximin and Alexander Isak. After a grueling 0-0 draw in South London against Crystal Palace, Howe may consider changing things up at St Mary’s.
“I’d say they’re both getting there, for sure,” said the Newcastle head coach. “I think it’s different situations. With Alex, we’ve had to be mindful of the fact that he hasn’t had a lot of training time. With a lot of games, you can’t train the players to the intensity that Alex has probably needed.
“We’ve backed off his training, and exposed him to the games, but at some stage, he will need that training loan to get back to his very best levels. We’re nursing him in gently. Allan has had more training time. He’s had more fitness work, so I think Allan is in peak physical shape.
“I’ve got a strong squad to pick from and we’ll make decisions on individuals, their form and fitness and how they feel and try and pick a team we think can win.”