The FA Cup maybe sums up best of all, that utterly empty feeling that Mike Ashley’s ownership of the club has left Newcastle fans with.
A club having an actual policy of not trying in cup competitions, you just couldn’t make it up.
Steve McClaren actually played a strong team in his only FA Cup match but the result was the same.
At least this was a step up from the sheer embarrassment of John Carver’s handling of the usual third round exit 12 months earlier. Pardew’s former assistant claiming he would play his strongest team and then blaming players when he did nothing close to that, accusing some of not wanting to play with minor knocks.
Anyway, the fact remains that there are adults in their early 20s who went through the whole of secondary school and university without seeing Newcastle go beyond the fourth round.
Rafa Benitez arguably had no other option but to sacrifice the FA Cup to try and ensure promotion, especially with Mike Ashley refusing to allow him to bring in even loan signings last January. When we reach 6 January 2018 it will be a major surprise if Rafa is in a position to go all out and try for a run in the FA Cup, once again Ashley has ensured Newcastle have a small enough squad trying to deal with Premier League survival, never mind dreams of Wembley.
The last 11 years have seen 19 FA Cup games (including replays) with only four Newcastle victories, the entire length of the Ashley era plus the season before when Newcastle were also eliminated in the third round.
Maybe little wonder it was Alan Shearer’s final season when Newcastle last reached the heady heights of the fifth round, actually getting to the quarter finals in 2006 and it taking that season’s Premier League winners Chelsea to stop us 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.
The whole attitude to the cups was maybe best summed up when the season after Newcastle almost got to the semi-finals of the Europa League, Alan Pardew uttered ‘Thank God’ I relation to no extra cup matches to interfere with trying to ensure another season of Premier League money/benefits on behalf of his master, Mr Ashley.
Everybody knows that the big money comes with the Premier League (and Champions League), that both domestic cups and Europa League don’t do the same, although the recent change to give the winners a place in the Champions League has certainly been a step in the right direction.
Yes the league comes first but no reason why Newcastle shouldn’t be able to be in a position where they always have a bit of a go at the FA Cup as well, especially if the draw is kind and injuries are minimal. Otherwise what is the point? Plus a club trying to win things is always going to be more attractive to a potential signing.
Newcastle fans of a certain age are now seeing the late 90s as the golden age of the FA Cup, much like those before them who treasured the three wins in the 1950s.
However, the late 90s saw two losing finals followed by a semi-final at Wembley in 2000, which was also lost.
It is great getting to the final and the fun along the way but just imagine winning it as well!
As the phrase goes ‘Newcastle fans don’t demand a team that wins, just a club that tries’, everything crossed that new owners can give the supporters exactly that.