View from the enemy: Newcastle fan previews Carabao Cup final

Stretty News spoke to The Mag writer Jamie Smith – a lifelong supporter of Newcastle United.

Manchester United are preparing to take on Newcastle in the Carabao Cup final this weekend. They’re looking for their first trophy since 1969, while we’re seeking our first in six years.

Jamie Smith gives us a Newcastle perspective ahead of the game. You can follow him on Twitter here: @Mr_Dolf.

Your first major cup final since 1999. Do you remember how the last one went?

Jamie: “Yes, vividly. Our second in a row and escalated from going with little hope against a side chasing the double, to having little hope against a side chasing the treble. I remember thinking it had swung our way when Keane went off after maybe about ten minutes, only to be replaced by Sheringham who scored almost immediately. When you’re underdogs your slim chances pretty much disappear when the opposition score first and it felt like game gone from there. I stuck it until the final whistle then left in the huff.”

What’s the general feeling among Newcastle fans ahead of the final?

Jamie: “It’s way more optimistic than that last one, as the teams have been on a relatively level footing this season and we’ve looked like a side that’s very hard to beat. However, that hope has dissipated in recent weeks after a spell of struggling for goals in the league ended with a poor performance at Bournemouth and our first defeat since August to Liverpool. Nick Pope’s sending off creates a goalkeeper crisis that you couldn’t make up and I think people are feeling a bit pessimistic when compared to your form.

“But, I’m going to need to put an asterisk against this (and maybe some other answers) as I think your game with Barcelona has a huge bearing on this, with the cup final being something like 66 hours after that match. The fact that we’ve been training since Sunday with exclusive focus on this match is an advantage in itself, but if that game is played at the pace of the first, and especially if it goes to extra time, I think the fatigue factor could swing the advantage our way. Allan Saint-Maximin was man of the match last week, but I’d be tempted to bring him off the bench later on to run at a defence that will surely be feeling the effects of that Barca Match.”

Describe life for Newcastle fans since the Saudi-backed takeover?

Jamie: “First, you have to appreciate what life was like before, being run as an advertising vehicle for Mike Ashley’s business, showing no ambition and being roundly mocked by an owner who openly disliked us. To be free of that would be enough, but everything that has happened has been utterly transformative: the appointment of competent executives, improvement to club infrastructure and the backing of a competent and ambitious manager in Howe, who has done an amazing job that is far more than the money spent, which is the cry of internet sneers.

“You might find out soon enough the complications of the whole Sportswashing argument. Most of our fans will distance them self from direct support of the Saudi regime, but the media will invariably focus in on the dafty wrapped in their flag making silly remarks about atrocities. The fact of the matter is that it’s an Uber capitalist world and many beloved organisations or products are owned by disgustingly rich people with an horrific background. The government and wider world allows this so it feels unfair for football fans to be held accountable, but if you point out the wider politics you’ll be accused of “whataboutery”. I would advise never shying from proper discussions around the issue, as this can turn a small positive, but most discussions are fired by rival fans who really don’t care about these issues and would welcome such investment in their own club, but use it as a means to legitimise hatred of your club.”

We couldn’t quite understand the level of sympathy shown towards Nick Pope after his red card last week. Are you confident Loris Karius can become a hero?

Jamie: “Well, it was a clear red wasn’t it? It’s always a bit of a sickener for someone to miss a big match for something that isn’t a horrific offence, but rules is rules. 

“Karius is the story in waiting for sure. It’s possible that we will win without him having a serious contribution to make. It’s possible you will win without him having any chance for goals conceded. But it feels more likely that there will be a role for Karius, either as hero or villain, it’s one of those football stories. I looked into his background for an article earlier this week and there’s a keeper in there, but if you look at his career trajectory since 2018, the Liverpool experience has absolutely ruined him. Could this be his moment of redemption?”

Which United player, if any, would you like to see at Newcastle?

Jamie: “I was asked a similar question about the England squad after the World Cup and my answer was Rashford then and it is now. You’d struggle to pick someone from the whole league in better form right now, and the exact thing we need is an attacking signing that offers a new dimension.”

How do you think you will do this season?

Jamie: “I think we can get the fourth spot, providing we can recapture some semblance of form. Spurs are a one man team and Liverpool seem to always have a defeat to someone unlikely in their pocket. We have City away after the cup final then our fixtures are all winnable at least. If we fall short it will still represent progress, as I’m confident we’d secure Europa which, on top of this cup final appearance, is amazing by our recent standards.”

Which players should we watch out for on current form?

Jamie: “I think this one is won and lost in midfield, so the obvious answer is Bruno, whose sending off in the semi final has given him a nice rest to focus on this game. However, Joelinton is an admirable partner to him. If those two click on the day they’ll take a degree of stopping that will be beyond players who had a game 66 hours previously.”

What do you think of Manchester United a) the club; b) the team; c) the fans and d) the manager?

Jamie: “You can’t deny the club is one of the biggest in the world and a big part of the Premier Leagues success on the world stage. By contrast I’d say you’ve always been a leading figure to anything disruptive such as the super league or, going back a bit, the disrespect of the cups. I think a lot of fans are wary of this elitist approach.
“The team at the minute could be one to watch over the next few years. It seemed like it wasn’t working out but since the World Cup there’s been some outstanding displays. Obviously Casemeiro is a big part of this and not getting any younger, but you’ll not have any problems recruiting, especially if Qatar get involved. With City’s potential financial problems and Liverpool seemingly in decline Sunday’s fixture could be a huge one in the league next season.
“For fans I’d say there’s two camps. Man Utd fans are among the best I’ve seen at St James and there’s an obvious core that underpins the beginning of any big club, without the support of the local community these organisations never happened. By contrast you can’t go near Twitter without getting volleys of abuse from worldwide “United fans” who are sat in their bedroom/mum’s basement in some far flung corner of the world, having latched onto a successful entity to feel like a winner as opposed to addressing their own personal shortcomings. I’m sure we’ll get our share as the Saudi revamp gathers pace.
“For Ten Hag, it looks promising, the Ronaldo situation was make or break and, at the minute, is looking like a very big win for him. I would question a couple of his signings but if current form Man Utd is what his team is going to be like he could well be your best manager since… well, it’s still early eh?”

Best and worst memories from games involving Manchester United and Newcastle.

Jamie: “96 the worst – the title was all but won and then Cantona happened. The game at SJP wasn’t so desperate at the time as we still had a lead but it turned out to be the killer blow.

“There have been some good memories, winning 5-0 is obvious but we still ended up runners up in the league. I particularly enjoyed an early season 4-3 win that announced Sir Bobby Robson’s side arriving as contenders. It was such a good game ITV’s new highlights show (The Premiership”) didn’t have the capacity to cope with it all.”

High and low point as a Newcastle fan?

Jamie: “I’m hoping Sunday will be the high. We’ve had Champions League qualification, title battles, cup finals and memorable European runs, but trophy wise in my life the best we’ve had is snatching the Championship title from Brighton in the final moments of the season six years ago.

“Low point was 96, when I travelled to Blackburn midweek to see a 1-0 lead become a 2-1 defeat in the final moments. I’ve seen relegations, derby defeats and cup final surrenders, but that is my personal deepest scar.”

All-time Newcastle cult hero and why?

Jamie: “Plenty of them , but my favourite is Phillipe Albert. He epitomised the spirit of the Keegan team of the 90’s, steaming forward from the back and weighing in with goals like that chip over Schmeichel.”

Favourite Newcastle XI from players you have seen?

Jamie: “Some inclusions may be premature, but: Given; Trippier, Albert, Woodgate, Botman; Gascoigne, Lee, Bruno; Beardsley, Shearer, Cole.

Predict the score of the game at Wembley.

Jamie: “This is another one that I may revise post-Barcelona…

“Stuff it, I’d want my arse kicking if I couldn’t show a bit of optimism, so I’m gonna go 1-0 to us, keep it tight then Isak to announce his arrival as a force at NUFC with a late winner.”

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1 Comment

  1. Interesting read. Open and forthright.
    Tough call on that score prediction. When was the last time ManUnited was blanked?

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