champions-league

League Cup victory would mean more to Newcastle than Champions League football

League Cup win would trigger Geordie Mardi Gras – and mean more than Champions League football – Getty Images /Stu Forster

One is a domestic cup competition that some fans would like to see removed from the calendar because it no longer has enough prestige to justify the extra games.

The other is the gateway to European glory and wealth, bringing a seat at the top table, a place among football’s aristocrats and glamorous nouveau riche. It’s the competition the world’s best players want to play in, which can transform fortunes on and off the pitch simply by entering the group stages.

So why should the majority of Newcastle United supporters believe that a League Cup semi-final against Southampton is far more important to their season than the pursuit of Champions League qualification?

Silverware is brought: a trophy and wild celebrations throughout the city; a Geordie Mardi Gras. The other simply brings the club’s silver coins. You would bring the city to a standstill and that captures hearts and minds on Tyneside, rather than status on a global stage.

‘The League Cup would be a reward for my father’s generation’

“A top-four finish would bring money, it would make the club more attractive for new signings,” explained Charlotte Robson, Newcastle’s True Faith podcasts. “Some would argue that it’s more important for the club to grow so that trophies can follow. But it’s the League Cup now that we really want.

“It would be the reward for the fans who have stuck with this club, who have lived through the misery, not just in the 14 years under Mike Ashley, but long before that.

“It would be a reward for my father’s generation who haven’t seen their football club win a trophy since the 1960s. It will be something the whole town can celebrate and we have waited a long, long time to do that.

“I think it means more than finishing in the top four. Look at Spurs, they’re in the Champions League this season, they’ve been in it before, but what do they really have to show for it? Newcastle have been in Champions League twice, but we haven’t won anything.

“That’s what it would mean for the city, not just football fans. The party would go on for days and I really mean it would be like a carnival.”

No club in English football carries its history as heavily as Newcastle. For more than half a century, they have been the biggest underperformer of all. Without a domestic trophy since 1955, the last of three FA Cup successes in that decade, and without a major trophy of any kind since their solitary European triumph in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1969, the burden of ending the most infamous trophy drought has proved too much for talented teams before.

“It’s about getting the monkey off your back,” explained lifelong Newcastle fan Stephen Farrell, who managed to secure tickets for the semi-final second leg at St James’ Park in an online poll after giving up his season ticket two years ago in protest at fell under Ashley.

“It’s always been the thing thrown at us, ‘you’re not a big club, you haven’t won anything.’

“Newcastle haven’t won a trophy in my lifetime and that will be the same for almost every fan inside the stadiums for the semi-final. That will be true for most Newcastle fans in the city. That’s why this matters so much. We’ve come close a couple of times, under Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson, but you have to say that if Eddie Howe can win the League Cup, he’d be above club legends in that way. That’s how important it is.

“Look at the list of clubs that have won something since our last trophy, Wimbledon, Coventry City, Wigan, Norwich, Ipswich Town and Blackburn in there…Sunderland have won a trophy more recently than us. My dad is a Sunderland fan , and it’s always been something I’ve been reminded of.

“People sometimes scoff at things like this, they kind of don’t like the way we talk about the club and the city like this. How it means something to everyone, a city with one club, but you have to have lived here to understand it.

“We don’t think we’re special but we want to win something, we want to celebrate it together. I think the whole town will have one big party and as a Geordie that would be something great.”

It has already been an excellent season for Newcastle. Nobody expected them to be third in mid-January, above Manchester United, Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea. When the club was taken over by a Saudi-led consortium in October 2021, there was much talk of superstar signings, rapid growth and future success being cynically bought by fossil fuel burning wealth.

For some it was an artificial project; a vanity plan for a foreign nation that wants to sport its image. It still is for many critics.

Against Crystal Palace last weekend, the home fans repeatedly chanted insulting songs about Saudi Arabia and booed the Newcastle players and coaching staff at the end of a goalless draw. It didn’t help that Newcastle were wearing their white and green third kit, which was deliberately designed to mimic the Saudi Arabia national team.

Crystal Palace fans protest controversial Newcastle takeover back in October 2021 - League Cup win would trigger Geordie Mardi Gras - and mean more than Champions League football - Getty Images/Julian Finney

Crystal Palace fans protest controversial Newcastle takeover back in October 2021 – League Cup win would trigger Geordie Mardi Gras – and mean more than Champions League football – Getty Images/Julian Finney

But Newcastle are only the ninth biggest spenders in the Premier League this season and to claim their success is down to money, the wealth and identity of their owners is ignorant and borderline insulting to manager Eddie Howe.

“I want to win the League Cup because it would give this group of players and this manager their place in the history of the club,” added Robson. “I would love that for them. Whatever comes in the future, whatever success we have or don’t have, they deserve that status.

“These are the players who saved us from relegation for two or three years before the takeover. These are the players like Kieran Trippier who came here at the start of something and completely transformed how we feel about the team. They reconnected the team and the fans to the point where there is now so much pride in them that even the slightest criticism leads to an impassioned defense.

“I want Eddie Howe to lift the club’s first trophy for 54 years because it would symbolize the incredible work he has done.

“Getting into the Champions League would be great and maybe we can do both, but it’s the trophy that really means something to people. It’s the piece of history we would make together. We want that for this team, this group , because they deserve it. This would be our moment to cherish together. You wouldn’t make it to number four.”

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