Let’s get one thing out of the way. Newcastle United do not need to ‘concentrate on the league’. We’ve been ‘concentrating on the league’ for the last 8 odd years, and we’ve been largely pathetic in the league. Concentrating on the league is what Lee Charnley wants you to do. Not ask questions about our cup form. Buy your season ticket. Think about the Premier League. Watch Sky and their cowardly pundits who name NUFC as a ‘crisis’ club but blame the fans rather than the people who have created yet another crisis.
Going out of the cup at the 3rd round stage in 2008/09 didn’t stave off relegation. Going out of the cup in the 3rd round in 12/13 didn’t stop a disastrous slump in form that saw Pardew’s side nearly relegated. Not being in the FA Cup didn’t help in 13/14 when Pardew’s side lost 6 Premier League games in a row and plummeting from 4th on Boxing day to 10th place winning just four more games all season. Going out of the cup last year didn’t stop the horrific scenes we were subject to under John Carver, In fact, you know what, I can’t think of a single season where Newcastle United ‘benefited’ from being out of any cup competition.?
I do remember season 99/00 when United were under the threat of relegation with Bobby Robson newly installed as manager. No mentions of ‘concentrating’ on the league. Got to the semi final that year and should have won it. Our league form saw us miles away from relegation second half of the season. If you need other examples, you don’t have to look that far. Gus Poyet’s ‘miracle’ survival at SAFC 13/14 was achieved with a run to the Carling Cup Final and the FA Cup quarter final. Last season Leicester’s victory over us in the third round was their first home win since September. They lost only twice more at home all season. As a struggling team you have to start somewhere. You have to win games. Any games. Winning is the key. Scoring goals is the key. If I see any more mags on twitter saying they want to lose this weekend I might just explode. We need to win. It’s a must win.
It’s a must win for several reasons. I have lost all faith in the manager. He will relegate us. He’s not to blame for NUFC being hopeless as a club – but the squad at his disposal is better than several sides above him. It’s not better than many in the league, but a few above us. He’s not good enough. Can he turn it around? Of course he can and he can start by winning this weekend. Let’s go into Man Utd (who are beatable) in the knowledge that he has organised a side to go and do the rarest of things – win a game of FA Cup football for Newcastle United. The record in the cup under Ashley is so poor that the club needs this badly – or it should do. I’m sick of no football on cup weekends. We’re Newcastle United FFS – not some championship club (yet) who see the FA Cup is a no hope opportunity that is in the way. In fact you’ll find plenty of Championship clubs who’ve put NUFC to shame in this cup in the last 10 years, we should be looking to have a go at this.
I want to watch cup draws again. I want to head to SJP on a Saturday to see us play against spirited but ultimately inferior opposition. The grind of the Premier League means gluts of goals and easy days at the office are few and far between. The FA Cup provides that antidote. I want to watch a game where I’m not looking at my phone constantly in a state of panic that one of the newly promoted/other terribly run clubs have scored. Yes it’s a shit draw (again) and Watford rightly start as favourites. If the manager is worried about suspensions/injuries – change the team. I don’t care about the line up. We’ve lost enough games in the past three years to prove team selection isn’t the key in the cups. It’s attitude and desire. I love what Watford have done this season, they’re currently 10x the side we are – but it’s Watford away, not Man City. We should be going there to win.
I would play some fringe player. Not to rest first teamers, but to see if any of these lads could get a game for the first team. Play Perez up top and De Jong behind. Give Thauvin 90 on the left. Play Sissoko and Janmaat becuase we have to. Is Lascelles, at 6 foot 4, a better option than Colo? Let’s find out. Pair him with Dummet – a fine CB – and play Mbabu at LB where he did so well earlier this season. Play Winjaldum inside with Tiote and tell him to get forward. I’m sick of seeing the same players fail for NUFC. I want to see lads come in and give everything for the shirt, in the hope of playing Premier League football.
I have no idea what type of side Watford will put out. They could put a full side out, as their season is secure already as a success. Like us, their manager will probably want to look at some fringe players.
Either way lets go and beat them. It will mean a lot of things to a lot of people, and you never know who you’ll get in the next round.
Prediction: 3-2 United
ALEX HURST – Follow Alex on @tfalex1892