Watford v Newcastle FA Cup: Toon Wars: The FA Cup Awakens.

Are we going to try and win it? You bet we are.

This year, the most inappropriate year for us to have a pop at the FA Cup, we’ve decided to give it a go and why? Because it is in Steve McClaren’s contract that if he wins the cup, he gets an 8 year extension? Who knows, I know McClaren has got no chance of finishing in the top 8 in the Premier League, the other supposed trigger for an 8 year contract and another thing I do know is that just because we are going to try and win today, that doesn’t mean we will.

On the eve of the game, it was a perplexing press release in which head coach Steve McClaren was joined by club ambassador Bob Moncur to laud Sam Allardyce and his wisdom in complaining about the FA’s attempts to devalue the FA Cup by making teams play league games a few days later, almost an official disclaimer, lose this and you’ll know why. It was a worrying attempt to try and take the emphasis away from our last chance of anything to savour this season.

We were also told that Steve McClaren was “unable to disclose whether NUFC had an interest in Loic Remy”, perhaps they should have asked Bob Moncur, presumably he’ll know. Presumably someone will know. Presumably someone has told them that the last thing we need is that spineless wimp back here in our hour of need, yes we need a striker, yes we need goals, not from him though.

What Steve did know was that:

“We’ve got one or two players who have got niggles and it’s a big risk, so we need to decide if we play them. Tomorrow will be the strongest strongest team we can put out without taking a risk (on anyone). We need to gather momentum and tomorrow is an opportunity to do that. Arsenal is the standard and the level.”

So the standard we set ourselves is that the benchmark is in a game we lost 1-0, not the 6-2 win against Norwich or the 1-2 against Spurs, no, if we play like we did against Arsenal we’ll, well, we’ll lose. That’s what happens when you miss all your chances and the other team scores. You lose 1-0, even if you do play well.

It is with that endorsement ringing in their ears that our players and fans trudge down the country for another shot at a trophy, fans who in the last few years have gone to Brighton twice, Leicester and Stevenage to see us wimp out of our joint-best chance of achieving anything. The magic of the FA Cup, we can lose to anyone, anywhere.

watford v newcastle

‘A national hero. And Winston Churchill.’

It is likely that we’ll face a different Watford team in this game than the one in the league in two weeks’ time. Quique Sanchez Flores, who looks more and more like the man Roy Keane would have become if he was Spanish, obviously has other ideas regarding his priorities.

Watford have kept a reasonably settled side this season in the league, the club said the league was their priority this season, so it is likely that Flores will make changes to the line-up which has lost two home games on the trot. Watford have very few injuries to their first team and only suspended defender Nathan Ake will miss out so Quique has the opportunity to play his strongest (strongest) team, but the manager has already said that he has one eye on the Premier League only a few days after this cup tie:

“We need to manage the situation three days after we have another challenge.”

But also that too many changes would be counter-productive:

“I don’t think we are going to change 7 or 8 players because I want to recognise the team so maybe 4 or 5 players may come in. We don’t want to change the personality of the team.”

Two players who hopefully will be ‘rested’ are Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo up front. The Watford front two ran Coloccini and Mbemba ragged at SJP earlier in the season by having the temerity to chase, hassle and barge when we had the ball and run, shoot and score when they had it. Put in those terms, it is no wonder our international defenders couldn’t cope with such menace.

Flores this week said that it is “impossible” that strikers Ighalo, 26, and Deeney, 27, will be sold this month so it is possible that one of them is already in a helicopter on his way to Liverpool, but if not we’ll hope they don’t start, Victor Ibarbo on loan from Roma and Obbi Oulare are two possible replacements. Igahlo in particular would be a major miss for the Hornets. In failing to score against Manchester City last week the striker missed out on the chance of scoring in their last 8 matches, a club record. Another club record for someone else. The only club record we look like getting this season is our least ever Premier League points tally.

Up front for NUFC it is almost certain that Siem De Jong will play after this week suggesting that his lack of game time at Newcastle currently “sucks” and it is likely that Mitrovic will partner him as he needs a goal. It would be nice to see summer signing from Northampton Ivan Toney at some point in this match too, after all, if he isn’t going to be involved today when is he?

Recalled from a successful loan spell at Barnsley last month, Toney hasn’t been seen since and like De Jong must be another player who is wondering just what is happening to him on Tyneside. He’s no different to the rest of us on that score.

In defence for us, Captain Chaos himself…

Coloccini has supposedly asked to play in this match and even more worrying than that, is that the Argentine has just won a planning application to build another house in his garden in Jesmond. The defender is celebrating after Government planners overruled Newcastle City Council’s decision to reject his application to build a new house in the grounds of his current home, bad news for us because we were hoping he’d be peddled back to South America this January, sorry folks, looks like he’ll be here for a while.

watford v newcastle

‘Coloccini: I want to play today!’

If our skipper does play today, it would be nice to see Mbabu get a run-out in one of the full back positions with either Dummett or Janmaat making way or moving to centre half. Mbabu played his heart out against Chelsea and hasn’t had much of a look in since, because of injury and then not being able to get back into a losing team. Personally speaking, if the team was picked on merit Mbabu would be in it, if I marked players out of ‘10’ for every game he’d be one of my players of the season so far, especially given that they all got ‘0’ against Watford at home.

In midfield it is likely that Tiote will play, though seeing as he can hardly get through one game never mind two, that’ll mean he’s missing for Manyoo on Tuesday.

He’s going to play today because Jack Colback looks set to miss out if Steve McClaren’s pre-match press conference is anything to go by, McClaren specifically mentioned that Colback had a “wear and tear” niggle. Flighty left winger Thauvin, flighty left winger Aarons and flighty unknown position Gouffran could be the players that could join Cheick, though it would be a statement of intent from our head coach if both Sissoko and Wijnaldum don’t make the starting line-up.

A statement of intent that our manager can hardly afford. Those remaining friends he has on the terraces of Tyneside will be expecting a performance of quality, attacking will and blood and sweat today, a combination which has been sadly lacking this season, and for much of the previous few.

After Arsenal, we know the players can attack, after Everton we know they can try and after Spurs we know they can win. Attack and try and win. Now there’s a combination to awaken the force. Howay The Lads.

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