Newcastle United seem to have more season defining games than most – but the next two games within a 72 hour time period are…season defining games.
The Watford one is a strange one and a problem match that has been brewing for some time, in fact ever since the FA Cup third round was sandwiched between games against Arsenal and Manchester United when the fixtures came out.
It wasn’t hard to envisage that if Newcastle United were struggling after the festive period, then having to play Man Utd midweek afterwards was going to lead to much talk on team selection. Trust Sky Sports to then move that Premier League match forward by 24 hours, with even less recovery time.
At times it has been hard to feel a lot of sympathy for Steve McClaren this season, as he walks that same line as Alan Pardew did before him, sole spokesman for a party line that no doubt he doesn’t really believe in – a transfer strategy that is just so full of holes – yet he isn’t allowed to use it as an excuse. Well at least not until he leaves Newcastle United of course, just like Alan Pardew who is now singing like a canary as to how big a handicap it was to have so little control on transfers in and out when at NUFC.
This weekend though, Steve McClaren is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t with his team selection.
Imagine any one or more of Mbemba, Wijnaldum and Sissoko playing against Watford and getting crocked for any length of time?
However, maybe it is time to be brave and saying to the players to throw everything at Watford on Saturday and let that be a fresh start for the rest of the season, then carry that cup euphoria/relief into the Manchester United match.
Watford boss Flores has already indicated he will play a weakened team, so why don’t Newcastle go full strength and throw everything at the Hornets, then if it is all going pear-shaped take the three players named above off the pitch with half an hour to go?
To get through to the fourth round of the FA Cup AND out of the relegation zone even temporarily (Swansea play Sunderland on Wednesday), would be a league and cup double to relish.
Maybe not deserving of an open top bus but certainly something that could and would be a mood changer on Tyneside.