Jamaal Lascelles claims there has been a culture change at Newcastle United.
The Newcastle Captain saying that now there is a real drive and determination to do well in the FA Cup.
Rafa Benitez surprised everybody by naming what was basically his first team against Luton Town, the only real exception being protecting his only fit senior goalkeeper Karl Darlow – whilst at the same time giving 20 year old Freddie Woodman his debut in first team football for Newcastle.
Jamaal Lascelles says that it is different when you are in the Premier League and easier to play your strongest team, whereas in the Championship you are playing so many midweek matches.
Certainly if you go out of the League Cup early-ish and have no European commitments, then you can see how the FA Cup does open itself up to Premier League clubs.
In the past this was irrelevant for Newcastle United, with Mike Ashley making it clear that cup competitions were to be treated with the utmost disrespect, with an early knockout welcomed.
Newcastle played four games in nine days over the festive period and Jamaal Lascelles says that ‘In the past some players may have looked to have this (FA Cup third round) weekend off after the busy period’ but that ‘It certainly wouldn’t happen now.’
The Luton match came only five days after the final Premier League match (Stoke away) of that busy period but as Rafa has pointed out, he has a full week before Swansea next Saturday.
Looking at the remaining FA Cup rounds, it is actually only the first couple of rounds that are problematic.
With the League Cup all of the games, apart from the final, are played midweek, whereas with the FA Cup it is weekends unless it goes to a replay.
As I said above, the Luton game came only five days after a busy four PL matches in a nine day period, so you are likely to have some players carrying knocks, although with Rafa rotating his team that definitely helped to guard against that.
The next round is the problematic on, as it is played on the weekend of Saturday 27 January and then a Premier League home match with Burnley quickly following on Wednesday 31 January.
However, if Newcastle get past that, as you can see from the timings of the other rounds, there is a clear midweek for Rafa Benitez both before and after each FA Cup round, if NUFC go that far.
Fourth round – (weekend of ) Saturday 27 January (Away to Man City Sat 20 January and home to Burnley Wed 31 January)
Fifth round – Saturday 17 February (Home to Man U Sun 11 Feb and away to Bournemouth Sat 24 Feb)
Sixth round – Saturday 17 March (Due to play away at Tottenham that weekend)
Semi-final – Saturday 21 April (Due to play away at Everton that weekend)
Talking very much like a fan, Jamaal Lascelles says ‘We could get another lower league team at home in the next round and then God knows what happens after that …”
Having never ever progressed beyond the fourth round of the FA Cup under Mike Ashley, it is nice to be able to dream just a little bit once again.
“We have a really good group of lads here and everyone wants the same thing.
“We all work hard and we are friends on and off the pitch, as you can tell from the football that we try to play.
“A lot of times you see managers pick lesser teams in the cups but the manager named a strong one
“In the past some players may have looked to have this (FA Cup third round) weekend off after the busy period.
“It certainly wouldn’t happen now.
“The manager said to me before the game, we want to go out there and win – see how far we can get (in the FA Cup).
“It is not like the Championship when you are playing Saturday then Tuesday then Saturday.
“You usually only play once a week in the Premier League, so it is not as if you need to rest players.
“The players are happy with that, we (all) want to play.
“It (winning the FA Cup) is something that I would love to do.
“It would be a dream come true…I lifted the Championship trophy and would love to lift the FA Cup.
“A lot of teams though want to win it and will fancy their chance, but you never know, we could get another lower league team at home in the next round and then God knows what happens after that …”