Why a little confidence in the hands of a Newcastle fan can be a dangerous thing
A 6-0 thumping? Check.
A winnable quarter-final tie against a struggling Premier League team? Check.
Goals seemingly coming from all positions of the park? Check.
As far as the EFL Cup is concerned, Newcastle fans could be forgiven for starting – just starting, mind you – to think that a trip down Wembley Way could be on the cards.
Allow me to introduce myself. I’m one of those fans who will go out of his way to say he won’t get his hopes up, but even now, looking at the check list at the top of this article, my heart is starting to rule my head. I’m beginning to think ‘what if?’
What if we catch Hull on one of their iffy days and get through?
What then if we draw Leeds in the semis?
What if Rafa chooses to start a very in-form Dwight Gayle over a fairly inconsistent Aleksandar Mitrovic?
These are only possibilities of course…but this is what confidence brings.
And a little confidence, in the hands of a Newcastle fan, can be a dangerous thing.
Last month, after we were beaten by Wolves in the league, only to beat them three days later in the cup, I said that we’d got it the wrong way round. I said that we should be focusing on the league. I said that this season, we should sacrifice the cups, as they could harm our chances of promotion, which is surely the ultimate aim for this squad.
Today, I think I was wrong. I know. How quickly has my tune changed?
I look at a team full of pomp and vigour, bursting forward with energy and without fear. They looked like scoring each time they pushed on and almost 50,000 passionate fans behind them believed they could too.
I argue with myself that, although a cup run is brilliant, promotion is vital. That, even though we need to be back in the Premier League, the slightest chance of silverware should not be dismissed. Round and round in circles.
Then, I look at the bigger picture.
Since relegation, Rafa has built a squad. He has almost doubled up on every position on the pitch – and why not? A season is a marathon, not a sprint. He’ll need to be able to call on players at any time, whether it is for the league or the cups.
He has also built a belief. This is something Newcastle fans have been longing for, for a little while now. A pride in the team they support. A knowledge that those eleven players are playing for them.
And I suppose that, if I’m saying anything, I’m saying this – even at this early stage of the season, Rafa Benitez has accomplished something that the last handful of Newcastle managers haven’t. The simple delight in watching this football team of ours win and win well.
I’ll have to hide my hope for the cup run, as well as my expectation for promotion, away for a little while. For now though, if I’m being honest, I’m happy for Newcastle United – its manager, its players and, most importantly, its fans – to be all together, acting like a team.
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