Steve McClaren has use the immortal words…’The FA Cup is as important as any other game’.
Talk about setting yourself up for a fall.
Obviously the message from the owner, chief executive and indeed the head coach before the season started, was that top eight was the minimum expectation in the league and that we were going to throw everything at the cups.
However, as soon as this tie against Watford was drawn, sandwiched between Arsenal and Manchester United in the Premier League, especially with Man Utd only 72 hours after the FA Cup match, it instantly spelt trouble.
If Steve McClaren now makes say five changes to his team, as he did for the League Cup defeat to Sheffield Wednesday reserves, then how will he look?
Having nailed his colours to the mast in the Premier League by resolutely refusing to change his team in recent matches apart from through injury, despite a number of defeats and poor performances, unless he makes just one or two changes then he will be right in the firing line.
Far better to come out now and say that there will be a number of changes before the game, rather than thousands of Newcastle supporters to turn up at Vicarage Road on Saturday to find a half-strength team which then gets battered by Watford.
It is easy to forget that John Carver’s first game in charge actually contained much promise, scoring three against Burnley and actually playing some decent football, until they appeared to tire and in the end were lucky to escape with a 3-3 draw.
However, the very next match was Leicester away in the FA Cup third round and after promising to play a strong team, Carver left out all of Newcastle’s better players and after the predictable defeat, it was embarrassing to hear the excuses as to why the changes had been made.
The popular perception, rightly or wrongly, was that John Carver had been ordered to play a weakened team and remember that was at a time when Newcastle were under no apparent danger of going anywhere near the relegation zone….at least until Carver got really stuck into the job.
Needless to say, the better players miraculously were fine for the following Premier League match against Chelsea.
With Newcastle now deep in relegation trouble, I think Steve McClaren’s best hope of getting a little respect with the fans is to just be honest.
We were all sick of the nonsense Pardew and Carver came out with before the cup matches and that Leicester one meant that John Carver was ridiculed within days of taking over.
Can you imagine a scenario of McClaren naming a full strength unchanged team which then goes and convincingly beats Watford, only for Newcastle to then get hammered by Manchester United?
Even if playing the first team against Watford hadn’t any real effect on the Man Utd game, can you imagine what Mike Ashley would have to say?
“Yes I am absolutely confident we can have a go at that (the FA Cup).
“We will play a strong team and every game is important.
“The FA Cup is as important as any other game – it is another game we want to win