As football supporters, we’re outstanding at creating strawman arguments. You know the stupid choices we force each other to make just to highlight some ludicrous belief that we hold.
The one doing the rounds now is, do you want promotion or win the FA Cup? Woah, wait! The two are mutually exclusive? When did that happen? Has anyone told Rafa?
Jesus wept, people. We’ve made it into the fourth round of the cup for the first time since Moses was in nappies and we’re expected to ‘throw’ the match in case it interferes with the promotion bid?
There’s a presumption that we’re going to win the FA Cup. We aren’t invoking divine intervention and nor will the footballing gods apologise profusely to Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, whoever – except Sunderland, nobody apologises to the Mackems – for this being Newcastle’s year.
As lovely as that sounds, it isn’t going to happen. We know it, the Premier League elite know it and so do the little bearded chaps in the sky who move the footballing fates around.
Cup runs do bring problems but good ones. In the next month, we could potentially play nine or ten games if we go to a replay against Oxford and the fifth round opponents. Even without replays, we have 8 games. That’s one every 3 days or so.
Oooh, chime the naysayers, that’s bad news. Congested fixture list blah, blah, blah, blah.
Except it’s a claim which doesn’t bear scrutiny.
If we draw against Oxford, no games are re-arranged for the replay. We shoehorn in what will be a home game between Derby and Wolves. Reaching the fifth round means that Aston Villa is probably re-arranged, unless we play the cup match on the Friday night.
A generation of supporters hasn’t seen us get to Wembley, even in a Mickey Mouse competition. Let them dream, for chrissakes.
For the squad, it’s all about winning games; victory breeds confidence and it doesn’t matter who the opposition is, the players believe in themselves a little bit more every time that they walk off the pitch victorious.
It will be five unbeaten, four of which are wins if we get to the fifth round. We don’t look at the results and decide that as it’s only Oxford we’ve beaten, we’ll classify it as a lesser game making it a 43/8 match unbeaten run. It’s five; everyone knows that.
Crucially, it allows players who don’t get a look in the league to have a moment in the sun. Keeping the squad match sharp is the hardest part of Rafa’s job; he knows that he’s going to need them at some point during the campaign and knockout games offer the perfect chance to use those on the fringes.
Yes, we might lose and defeat on Saturday is going to wipe this arrogance off my face. I can’t bring myself to say, “So what?”, but I veer more toward that than being apoplectic about the prospect. It’ll hurt but by Monday, we’ll be thinking about QPR and remembering the absolute gubbing we gave them at Loftus Road.
The skies will be bluer when we beat Oxford not a bloody big black cloud hanging over our heads. Charge yourself on the frisson, and enjoy the cup run people; they don’t happen very often!