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Opinion

Bottom line, this is a squad assembled by Mike Ashley

2 weeks ago
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Before anything else, let’s get it out of the way. Congratulations to the visiting team and staff after Newcastle 0 Cambridge 1.

Their boys put in a display that Rafa would have been proud of.

Cambridge were committed, organised and determined, the keeper played a blinder, whilst the striker got the chance to do a Shearer.

If anyone from Cambridge reads this, good luck in the next round and may you get great memories from your cup run this year.

Now to add some of our own perspective with our own memories.

Were we to have been asked at the start of the season what our FA Cup expectations would be, most of us would probably have gone on form for the last decade and a half, we would be lucky under Mike Ashley to progress to the 4th round. With Bruce at the helm, having made one cup final in his 1,000 game managerial career, the odds were not in our favour.

Trippier aside, this was the squad assembled by Mike Ashley and to varying degrees, Pardew, McClaren, Rafa and Bruce. As some of the players have pointed out, the team was not fit enough to start the season.

There were some positives, not least Trippier’s class being obvious. We would never have expected to be able to realistically compete for his signature on a contract.

At the start of the season, we would think we were in dreamland to have had 23 attempts on goal, 10 on target.

There are some excuses that we might not have considered, given the backdrop of two games cancelled under the Covid rules. We may not have had a full bench but there were 17 outfield players on the team sheet, including two youngsters. Dummett was available and it seems a fair guess that some had recovered from Covid.

We do not know how may players on the pitch and bench may have been affected by the outbreak. Those of us with family members who have had it, will know how much it can affect energy levels. Wilson’s absence highlighted our need for reinforcements up front.

There could be other reasons for players being absent. Yes, a few are injured. A few may have or be getting over Covid. With a full senior squad of 25, it might even be that some have been shielding themselves to secure an outward bound transfer, creating space in the squad for more players of Trippier’s quality.

It could be one of those ironic pluses that those who underperformed against Cambridge have identified themselves as those who lack the attitude that we want to see in the future. We can wish them well in their future careers.

As far as the FA Cup is concerned, we are where we would have expected to be at the start of the season. We have new owners and can now look forward with real optimism. We still have to avoid relegation this season.

Through the cloud of this defeat, there is a definite silver lining.

We hope to get players through the door. Under Bruce, Luton would have been daunting opponents. We now have that free weekend after the Watford and Leeds games to integrate whoever comes in through the door. We effectively have a pre-half season.

On balance, let’s move on, get enthusiastic about who we sign and look forward to 19 games of being able to watch exciting football with a genuine chance to save the season. We have come on loads since last August.

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