Newcastle bowed out of the Capital One cup at the first hurdle the other night after a determined performance against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
United fielded a weakened side against the 2010 winners ahead of a busy programme which sees the Magpies face Reading and Manchester United in the Premier League within the space of eight days, with a visit from Ligue 1 outfit Bordeaux sandwiched in between.
Old Trafford is never the easiest place to visit despite the youthful nature of the home side, while Newcastle’s XI consisted mostly of fringe players interspersed with experience in key areas. While there is no doubt that a number of positives can be drawn from the performance – not least the return to goal scoring form of Papiss Cisse – many Newcastle fans are left with a sense of frustration as the window of opportunity for this particular piece of silverware (a competition we have NEVER won) closes for another season.
Prior to the game, Alan Pardew expressed the need to prioritise in a season where Newcastle would compete in four competitions. The manager made it quite clear that the League Cup ranked lowest in the pecking order, with the Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League deemed more important – in that order. Interestingly, Pardew also claimed that Champions League qualification would be ‘like winning a trophy’ for Newcastle this season, spelling out where the clubs priorities lie.
During the last 20 years, Newcastle have endured something of a rollercoaster journey, from the highs of title challenges, Champions League campaigns and FA Cup finals to the lows of relegation, turmoil and missing out on the ultimate goal in football – silverware.
Looking back through the history of the Premier League era, Newcastle fans remember the great goals, the great games, the near misses in the league, the disappointment of the cup finals, the big nights in Europe, the derbies, the comebacks. All are memorable and most are spoken of fondly amongst Newcastle fans. There is however one experience that most fans yearn for, and that is winning something. What does it feel like to win a piece of major silverware? Any fan below the age of 43 would be unable to answer this question.
With hindsight, progression to the 4th round of the League Cup may well have been in vain, with a trip to Stamford Bridge in the offing. Despite the undoubted efforts and will to win of the XI who took the field on Wednesday night however, one cannot shake the feeling that failure to progress is nothing if not an opportunity missed to compete for a major prize.
The arguments of team selection stand true, the arguments of fixture congestion stand true, but to claim that competing for silverware over six rounds of competition is less important than collecting points against Reading at the weekend can be questioned, and should be questioned by Newcastle supporters. Besides entertainment and satisfaction of competing, winning silverware is what this game is all about, not money. Money gained by qualifying for the Champion’s League can transform a club, but it’s not guaranteed to transform a club.
Entertainment in football is provided by good performances on the pitch, and the game against Manchester United was no exception. History and prestige in football is measured by silverware.
By Martin Gibson