It was a year ago that interim head coach John Carver said the FA Cup was important to Newcastle and he knew because he was a Geordie and therefore fans shouldn’t worry.
John would play his strongest side at bottom placed Leicester in the third round of the FA Cup.
Carver then made six changes to the side and left out some of our best players, who just happened to be magically fit for the next game at Chelsea.
Paul Simpson and Steve McClaren on the training field
At the time Newcastle were 10th in the table with 27 points from 20 games and Leicester were bottom with 14 points – so it should have been an easy game for Newcastle, but we lost it 1-0.
Magically the senior players who missed the game were all fit at Chelsea in the next game a week later when we lost 2-0, and John then went on to defend his decision – always insisting the players were injured.
That wasn’t the last time we heard some strange things from John Carver before a game and after a game last season and of course Leicester still finished 2 points above us in the league last season.
Things are different now and while Watford are another newly promoted club they are doing very well and are 9th top with 29 points and we are 18th – 3rd bottom – with a measly 17 points.
The other difference is our next game is on Tuesday night against Manchester United at home followed by another home game against West Ham next Saturday.
Steve McClaren has said he will field his strongest side while also protecting players who have niggles:
”We are coming up against a Watford team in very good form, so it won’t be easy to win the game. But we will go there to win it.”
” We’ve got one or two players who have got niggles and it’s a big risk, so we need to decide if we play them.”
” Tomorrow will be the strongest team we can put out without taking a risk on anyone.”
” With the position we are in, it doesn’t matter if it’s cup or league. It’s an important game and one we want to go and win.”
” We need a win. We need to gather momentum and tomorrow is an opportunity to do that. Arsenal is the standard and the level.”
We expect Steve to make three or four changes today from the side that did so well against Arsenal – but we could still win the game today with Watford also resting some players.
But Steve knows the next two home games against the Red Devils and the Hammers are really important for Newcastle.
Two more defeats in those games – to go with the three defeats in a row we are on at the moment – would not be good for either Newcastle or himself.
On the other hand two wins would be terrific.
If the next three games were league game Steve would play his strongest side in every one of them – much like he did in the last three games which were also spread over a short eight days.
But he won’t because whether we like it or not right now the FA Cup is a lower priority – in fact a much lower priority for Steve McClaren – given we are in a relegation fight so early this season.
Of course the other way to look at it is that we need wins in the league or the cup.
Wins give our players confidence and we don’t have too many wins this season – only four in 20 league games in what is turning out to be yet another nightmare season for Newcastle fans.