Newcastle United’s long-standing quest for silverware begins in earnest on Saturday as the Premier League takes a step back allowing the FA Cup to come to the fore.
The FA Cup remains the last major piece of domestic silverware we collected back in 1955 which is shocking for a club our size. Even Wigan have won it more recently than us which says a lot!
In my lifetime this competition has just been a source of disappointment. A lot of people go on about the magic of the cup but for me it’s more dread. Even the two final we reached just before the turn of the century were tinged with disappointment and I bet we’ll see numerous pieces of footage of us losing at Hereford or Stevenage or wherever at various points.
Having said that, if we did actually manage to win the thing I wonder just how big the celebration would be? Off the scale would be my guess such is the relative lack of success we’ve had over the years in my lifetime at least.
I look at the league table and we have no real danger of being relegated this season and I don’t think we’ll do much, if any, better than where we are now in the table so why not go for it, take it seriously, name string teams and try and give the fans something they’ve been craving for since 1955?
Mathieu Debuchy will miss the game as he starts his three match ban following his sending off at West Brom. Fabricio Coloccini will also miss the game after picking up a knee injury in that same game. Captain Colo is likely to be out for six weeks at least.
Former Magpie Craig Bellamy continues to struggle with a knee injury and has not been involved with the Cardiff City first team since the start of November.
We have a good record against Cardiff City and have won the last seven games home and away against the Bluebirds – a run that stretches back to 1981. Equally impressive is our record against City at St James’ Park where United have won 18 times compared to just three wins for Cardiff and three draws adding up to the 24 meetings between the two clubs in the North-East.
Overall 48 games have been played between the two sides, Newcastle have won 22, Cardiff have won 15 with the spoils being shared on 12 occasions.
We know that at least two changes have to be made so I expect Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and either Paul Dummett or Massadio Haidara to make an appearance. The big question is what other changes do we make? I know I said at the start that we should name our strongest side, but they’ve been playing for the bulk of the season so far and have started to look a little jaded in the last couple of games so perhaps resting some (not all) of them isn’t such a bad idea? It’s often said that football is a squad game so why not use that squad? Players like Vurnon Anita, Yanga-Mbiwa, Ben Arfa and Cisse are all there to be used so give them some game time.
For Alan Pardew though it is a fine balancing act. He’ll be acutely aware of the stick he will get by naming a so-called “weaker” side if it all backfires, and with Cardiff City appointing a new manager there is potential for an improvement in performance from them. Then again, Pardew is paid to make the decisions and will live or die by them in the long run but we’ve lost two on the sin so why not go for a change?
Howay the lads!
Date: Saturday, 4th January, 2014
Venue: St James’ Park