Toon Army dreaming of long-awaited success for Newcastle
TOTTENHAM v NEWCASTLE
(Tomorrow, 3.40am, SingTel mio TV Ch 111)
It doesn't take much to get us Newcastle United supporters all hot and bothered with excitement.
There is no chance Newcastle will win the Premier League title, there is very little chance the Magpies will finish in the top four and once again earn membership into the hallowed Champions League group.
But Alan Pardew has got the team on a Cup run and that's enough to set pulses racing among the faithful.
The last time Newcastle won silverware, they were actually a major force on the continent, lifting the 1969 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup - which became the Uefa Cup before it was transformed into today's Europa League - after they beat Hungary's Ujpesti Dozsa 6-2 on aggregate.
That year's tournament featured the likes of Juventus, Leeds United and Rangers, all mighty clubs on the world stage, highlighting Newcastle's standing as one of England's big teams.
Forty-five years on and Newcastle remain one of the best supported clubs in England, consistently attracting more than 50,000 to their magnificent new St James' Park ground.
And the Toon Army will be out in force in London tomorrow morning (Singapore time) for the League Cup quarter-final clash with Tottenham Hotspur, surely dreaming of glory at Wembley on March 1.
Newcastle fans start every season with the goal to end this hurt, the pain has stayed with us for 45 years, but maybe this time it will be different.
Newcastle are close to a spot in the semi-finals, they are on a good run even after the weekend defeat at Arsenal, they will be wary of Spurs at White Hart Lane but have a good chance of grabbing a spot in the last four.
After a second-string side needed an own goal to scrape past third-tier Gillingham in the second round, a 112nd-minute goal from Newcastle born-and-bred defender Paul Dummett helped Pardew's team beat Crystal Palace 3-2 in the third round.
Newcastle then produced one of the biggest shocks of the season when they went to the Etihad and beat mighty Manchester City 2-0, sparked by teenage whiz Rolando Aarons, another graduate of the academy that produced the likes of Chris Waddle and Paul Gascoigne.
Who's to say there won't be another chapter of triumph tomorrow morning?
Sure, the last time Newcastle were in London, they were on the end of a 1-4 hiding at Arsenal.
But the one-off nature of a Cup tie means anything can happen, and all three of Newcastle's League Cup games in previous rounds were also away from St James' Park.
Pardew's men have already handed Tottenham a beating at the Lane this season, posting a come-from-behind 2-1 win in a Premier League clash on Oct 26.
Spurs might have beaten Swansea 2-1 in their last league game, but manager Mauricio Pochettino still seems unsure of his best 11, and there just seems to be uncertainty in the team.
Newcastle, meanwhile, are in decent form after a wretched start to the season.
The Arsenal game was just the second defeat in 11 matches, and Pardew, the Premier League's Manager of the Month for November, seems to have successfully got his players to play as an effective unit.
Pardew has attributed the team's resurgence to diligence, discipline, hard work and technical ability. If the side he puts out against Tottenham show those qualities, the win isn't beyond them.
The players will also be eager for a huge morale-booster ahead of Sunday's Tyne-Wear Derby at home to Sunderland.
In Moussa Sissoko, they have a midfield general who can mix it with the best of them. Papisse Cisse is a proven goalscorer and the defence, marshalled by Fabricio Coloccini, works well as a unit.
If Newcastle do beat Spurs and make the final four of the competition, big guns like Chelsea and Liverpool could well lie in wait.
But Liverpool are hardly the Suarez-inspired Reds of last season.
Chelsea will be battling on four fronts by the time the semi-finals roll round next month, and may well look at the League Cup as a distraction.
Newcastle have stumbled at the final hurdle enough times (see sidebar) to know that nothing can be taken for granted.
Their last piece of domestic silverware was the FA Cup in 1955.
And the barren run prompted die-hard fan Ged Clarke to write and publish a book in 2006 predictably entitled Newcastle United: Fifty Years Of Hurt.
This season's League Cup offers a glimmer of hope to all Newcastle fans that it could all end in glory this time.
These are exciting times for us.
"Maybe. There won’t be that kind of fear element that sometimes you can have, but it’s still very difficult to win there. it will be a cracking game because the two teams are very different."
- Manager Alan Pardew on whether Newcastle have the psychological advantage over Spurs, having won both their last two visits to White Hart Lane
"We have a lot of young talent and we showed character and the right mentality. These are our characteristics and we need to keep this feeling — never give up in football, never give up every time we’re on the field."
- Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino
MAGPIES' MOMENTS OF HURT
Newcastle reached the FA Cup final after beating West Brom, Nottingham Forest and Burnley. But they crumbled 0-3 to Liverpool at Wembley, in what was Bill Shankley's last game in charge of the Reds. Liverpool were too good, with future Newcastle player and manager Kevin Keegan grabbing a brace, and Steve Heighway scoring once. BBC commentator David Coleman famously said that Newcastle's defence had been "undressed" by Liverpool.
Newcastle seemed to be cruising to the Premier League title, and held a 12-point lead over the chasing pack in February. This was supposed to be it. But Manchester United went on a charge, Keegan's men slipped up and the gap was cut to just one point after the Red Devils crucially won 1-0 at St James' Park. Both teams were level on 76 points with just two games left. United went on to win the title by four points. It was the season when Keegan famously suffered the finger-jabbing meltdown on television.
Despite signing Alan Shearer for a then-world record fee of £15 million and posting a memorable 5-0 win over Manchester United early in the season, things unravelled for the Magpies halfway through the season. Keegan abruptly resigned in January, Kenny Dalglish took over but Newcastle once again finished runners-up in the league, seven points behind United.
Newcastle reached their first FA Cup final since 1974, beating Everton, Stevenage, Tranmere, Barnsley and Sheffield United. But their opponents in the final, Arsenal, were on a high, having just snatched the Premier League crown from Manchester United. A Ray Parlour-powered Gunners side came out 2-0 winners at Wembley.
Newcastle reached their second consecutive FA Cup final, but were clear underdogs against a Manchester United side hunting for a treble. Even though Roy Keane picked up an injury in the ninth minute of the final at Wembley, the newly crowned Premier League champions comfortably won 2-0, thanks to goals by Keane's replacement, Teddy Sheringham, and Paul Scholes. The Red Devils would complete the treble by winning the Champions League four days later.