Why Newcastle are right to finally take cup games seriously

Tonight’s League Cup match against Northampton Town could finally be the fresh start fans of Newcastle United have longed for.

League Two outfit Northampton Town visit St. James’ Park this evening as the majority of the Premier League sides enter the League Cup in round two.

An impressive draw against Manchester United on Saturday has led to renewed optimism on Tyneside that a memorable season could be on the cards.

The Magpies have made five important signings at a total spend of over £50 million, the highest amount spent during the 'Mike Ashley era'.

In the past however, the club's top talent would not be have featured in tonight’s fixture. It was public knowledge that Ashley preferred Newcastle to concentrate on the Premier League, due to the huge financial implications that come with staying in the top flight, which led to weaker teams fielded in cup games.

Cup runs have been few and far between for the North-East side, last gracing a domestic cup final in 1999, losing 2-0 against Manchester United’s treble-winning heroes.

Newcastle have only made one semi-final appearance in either cup since, losing again to the Manchester United a decade ago.

That could all change this year with a renewed ethos from new boss Steve McClaren, who is determined to change the Toon's dismal record in knock-out competitions.

A winner of the League Cup with Middlesbrough in 2004, McClaren knows just how cup competitions can shape a club's season.

Speaking at the pre-match press conference, McClaren said: “It can give you a massive boost. Nobody wants to lose a football match, they would put a team out that can win that game. That’s what we will be doing. We will be putting our strongest team possible out.”

The former England boss is aware however, that it is not just the strength of the team that determines the outcome of the game: “It will be a team that will be strong enough and good enough to win the game – the attitude has to be right though.”

It’s a mentality that seems to have rubbed off on the players. New boy Georginio Wijnaldum was a Dutch Cup winner with PSV Eindhoven has entered Newcastle with the intention of playing in every game, including against a team ranked 61 places below them.

Speaking with the Chronicle, Wijnaldum said: “I want to play in everything … It is an opportunity for us to win a trophy so we must go for it.”

It is a fortunate start for The Toon who have in recent years not had much luck in drawing lower opposition at home, and one they can build on instantly.

Last holders of a trophy in 1969, fans may struggle to remember where Newcastle finish in the league this season in another 46 years, but a trophy will never be forgotten.

A good cup-run brings with it the hope of a Wembley visit for fans and can help lend momentum to the league campaign, as seen last year with Aston Villa.

Fans of Newcastle have shown that they are not demanding a cup but simply wish to see a strong side put out in order to give it the best shot possible. The club finally seem to be on the same page.

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