NEWCASTLE: It’s about time Newcastle United finally won another trophy — few fans are old enough to remember the last time they hoisted anything of merit.
By the time the Carabao Cup final comes around next year, it will have been nearly 69 years since Newcastle United claimed a domestic honor: the FA Cup in 1955. In fact it will have been 55 years since the Magpies won a trophy of any sort, the last one being the Inter Cities Fairs Cup, a forerunner of the Europa League, in 1969.
There is some beautiful symmetry about all this. It feels to many as if this is finally Newcastle’s time to shine, with Eddie Howe in charge of a Saudi Public Investment Fund-backed, “new money” Premier League Goliath.
However, now is not the time for the Magpies to take their foot off the pedal, as so many top-end, top-flight clubs are guilty of doing around this time of year.
Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola has promised to rest most of the key men from his history-making, treble-winning side when they visit St James’ Park in the third round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday. It was the only honor his side did not win last year.
Meanwhile, Newcastle will want to forget their forgettable history in the competition in which they have twice been bridesmaids (finalists in 1976 and 2023) but never the bride.
Therefore, despite far greater battles to come in the Champions League (Paris Saint-Germain will be in town next week) and the Premier League (in which Newcastle got back on track with an overwhelming 8-0 win at Sheffield United on Sunday), Howe cannot rest too many players in his bid to lift the only domestic cup the club has never won.
The coach does plan to make a few alterations but wholesale changes to the squad are unlikely as he is clearly taking the game very seriously.
“It’s an important competition for us,” Howe said. “Last year was amazing for us. We started it against Tranmere, which was an incredibly difficult game. It seems a long time ago now but you have to go to some tough places in the early rounds.
“We’ve got the ultimate test coming up, so a totally different tie to last year, but we will give it every importance and try as hard as we can to progress because we want to try and compete in every competition. We’re certainly not dismissing it as anything other than an important game.”
Pushed on whether he might take the Guardiola approach — the Spaniard said he would not be wasting any energy on the competition — Howe said: “I think we will use the squad. I say ‘think’ because it’s not finalized in my brain what we’re going to do yet.
“I need to assess everybody physically first, from the game we’ve just had. There have been players carrying certain things so we’ll need to manage them but we do have players who are really keen to play.
“I think I have to utilize the squad, especially with what we have coming up, not just at the weekend but midweek next week. As I’ve said many times, we want the players to enter the pitch in the best physical condition to showcase their skills.
“There’s no priority list (of competitions). There’s no one tournament more important than the other, as I’ve said to the players many times. The most important game is our next game, whoever that is or whatever competition that is. We’ll focus all our energies in trying to win that match.”
It is the blue half of Manchester that will be visiting Tyneside on Wednesday but it was their red rivals, Manchester United, who dished out the biggest reality check of Howe’s largely successful reign so far at St James’ Park.
In February, coach Erik ten Hag’s men spoiled Geordie Carabao Cup dreams with a 2-0 win in the final at Wembley. Has that shaped Howe’s thinking about the competition this time around?
“That experience has driven us all forward because the experience of the run to get to the final was something we really enjoyed,” he said. “The final, itself, we didn’t (enjoy) because we didn’t get the outcome we wanted but it’s there in the back of our minds.
“We know the Premier League is intense and very difficult and, of course, we have got European competition. But this, with the FA Cup, which our recent performances haven’t been strong in, are competitions we take seriously.
“We are well aware of our hunt for a trophy here. It is pushing us all. This is a competition we take very seriously. We would love that to be a trophy, that we want to win, so we will do everything we can to try and do it.”