If you look down the years, the League Cup is clearly the easiest competition to win.
The sheer variety of clubs, many of them (Oxford, Swindon, Middlesbrough, Luton, Blackburn…) from outside the elite, to have won this cup is proof of that.
As we all know though, one name is most definitely missing, it being quite a feat that in it’s 55 year history, Newcastle United have managed just one (losing) final.
The fact that the 1975/76 season was also the only one where Newcastle have reached a semi-final, is quite remarkable, considering it only takes four rounds (three if you’re in Europe) to get into the last four.
The fact that there was great excitement when United got into the quarter-finals two years ago, really shows up the low bar that had been set previously. Three wins had taken NUFC to a last eight match at Tottenham, only to crash 4-0.
A win against Preston would take Newcastle seamlessly into that same stage, one step away from a two-legged semi-final. With three home draws already against clubs from outside the Premier League, it has the same feel as 1997/98 under Kenny Dalglish when Newcastle stumbled into the FA Cup final, even drawing lower league Sheffield United in the semi-final.
The number of clubs that appear to have accidentally won the League Cup, tells us well why not Newcastle?
Ironically, this season Newcastle have got the biggest squad they’ve had for some years, despite being in the second tier. As well as a step nearer silverware, staying in the cups is seen as a good thing anyway, as it enables Rafa to give so many (eight changes on Tuesday night) fringe players a game.
There was one sideshow that was most definitely best avoided, Newcastle the 13th club out of the hat and set to face one of Southampton, Preston and Sunderland.
Luckily the mackems were avoided but plenty people were bemoaning not having a derby cup match (yet!). Cup runs can happily run alongside the quest for promotion but the last thing Newcastle needed was the distraction of facing them lot from down the road.
Rafa Benitez has assembled a squad to compete in all competitions…just a shame nobody thought of doing that a little earlier.