Newcastle ready to deliver long-awaited trophy as Wembley beckons

Only a small minority of the fabled Toon Army who descend on St James’ Park come rain or shine have any recollection of Newcastle United winning any significant silverware.

You must venture back to the heady days of Jackie Milburn et al in 1955 when the club won the FA Cup for the third time in five years for the last time the Magpies could really crow.

There have been some near misses since, some triumphs in obscure and now-defunct competitions such as the Anglo-Italian Cup and a few promotions back to the top flight.

But on the whole it has been a labour of love for Newcastle fans who have lived in hope rather than expectation.

That could all change on Sunday, however, when thousands upon thousands of Geordies will make the trip south for the League Cup final against Manchester United at Wembley.

Sixteeen months after the struggling club was sold by deeply unpopular owner Mike Ashley to a consortium headed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, Newcastle are showing signs they can return the glory days to Tyneside.

Despite a recent loss of form in the Premier League, Newcastle remain fifth in the table with every chance of a top-four finish and a return to the Champions League.

Sunday’s showpiece could really get the ball rolling though, even if they will be underdogs against a Manchester United side also restoring the club’s fortunes after tough times.

“We’ve beaten some really good teams and been very consistent with our form. We believe the power is in our hands and it’s up to us to perform at those best levels,” manager Eddie Howe told reporters in the build-up to the final.

“I always believe that the history, from my side, is respected but we’re trying to create new history with a new team at a new moment. We’re determined to try and do that and create some great memories for our amazing supporters.”

Newcastle suffered a blow when first-choice goalkeeper Nick Pope was sent off in the 2-0 defeat by Liverpool last weekend – a result that ended a 17-match unbeaten league run.

With back-up Martin Dubravka ineligible, Howe could hand a Newcastle debut to German stopper Loris Karius whose last competitive game for an English club was the 2018 Champions League final for Liverpool when he made two terrible errors as his side were defeated by Real Madrid.

His other option is Mark Gillespie who last appeared for Newcastle’s first team in 2020.

“That’s exactly why you have a squad of goalkeepers and to have goalkeepers of Loris’ and Mark’s experience, where they’ve both played a lot of football in their careers,” Howe said.

“I have had conversations with both players and they’re in a good place. We work with a lot of rhythm and structure, anyway, so our work won’t change.”

With so much excitement in the city, Howe said keeping the focus solely on the game has been the priority.

“I’m pleased the game is here. I think it’s been a difficult few weeks for us because the talk has been about it even though it’s been two or three games down the line,” Howe said.

“We’re desperate to play in it and do the club proud.”

Fans will certainly be expecting more than the back-to-back FA Cup finals they lost 2-0 to Arsenal in 1998 and Manchester United in 1999.

And if they do deliver the trophy the Toon Army will paint the streets of London black and white.