Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A Solitary FA Cup Victory in Five Years Says It All; THE AGENDA: How Have Newcastle Fared in Cup Competitions under Mike Ashley's Regime?

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A Solitary FA Cup Victory in Five Years Says It All; THE AGENDA: How Have Newcastle Fared in Cup Competitions under Mike Ashley's Regime?

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner Sports Writer stuart.rayner@ncjmedia.co.uk

SOMETIMES you have to question the sanity of Newcastle United fans. There were 4,319 in Leicester City's away end on Saturday. Why? It ought to have been absolutely empty. It was the only way Mike Ashley's customers could show him the disdain he shows them. Shouting abuse at his contempt for the world's greatest cup competition is a futile exercise.

Following the Magpies home and away is a thankless task, but an unpredictable one. They have won at Manchester City and Tottenham T Hotspur this season, and were the first club to beat Chelsea.

But you did not have to go to the east Midlands at great expense to realise Newcastle were going to meekly lose. Those of us at Stevenage in 2011, or Brighton and Hove Albion in 2012 and 2013, or at the home tie with Cardiff City last year knew exactly what was coming. Even the hollow protests about this being the strongest side Newcastle could put out were cut-andpasted from those depressing Saturdays.

It was not just the side John Carver fielded which was weak, so was their desire.

In the last five years Newcastle have only won one FA Cup tie. It tells you everything you need to know about their lukewarm attitude towards the competition.

In 2010 they were knocked out by a team of equals, Championship promotion rivals West Bromwich Albion.

But Stevenage were a League Two side, T Brighton from the Championship. Cardiff were a point above the top-flight relegation zone and went down in May. Like Newcastle, they fielded a weakened side.

Leicester were bottom of the table.

Blackburn Rovers, who Newcastle beat in 2012, were hardly much of a scalp.

They too were relegated from the Premier League that season.

Blackburn rested Christopher Samba, David Dunn and Yakubu, and when David Goodwillie scored, the handful of incredulous supporters in the visiting section sang, "How s*** must you be, we're winning away?" Although he did not name names, Carver claimed some of his players declared themselves unfit for the latest FA Cup third round tie.

A manager - which is what Carver aspires to be - has to protect the likes of Ayoze Perez, who he said had "run out of fuel" after his first Christmas playing football.

It is also his job to put his foot down with others and tell them to get on with it.

How many times this season do you think Newcastle have fielded 11 fully-fit players? Yoan Gouffran has his critics, but Carver could have sent a signal to his players that he wanted them to push for an equaliser if he had brought the forward on instead of 17-year-old Callum Roberts.

"It would have helped my case to get the head coach job - so why wouldn't I put them on the pitch?" Carver said of his absentees.

Would it, though? …

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