Mike Ashley issued a mission statement last month: he will either win a trophy or qualify for the Champions League before granting Newcastle fans their wish of a new owner.
The tracksuit salesman has identified Steve McClaren as the coach to fulfil those goals, presumably having been impressed by the firsts that the former England boss achieved at Middlesbrough (first major trophy, first European final) and FC Twente (first Eredivisie title).
With the Magpies a monster 150/1 on the Betfair Sportsbook to celebrate their first top-four finish in 13 years in 2015/16 compared to 33/1 to win a first major domestic trophy in 61 years, a domestic cup appears to be the more realistic target.
It certainly won’t take much for McClaren to upstage his predecessors in the Ashley regime, as this recap confirms…
The Ashley era got off to a par start in the cups, as in both competitions they saw off a Championship side at home before bowing out without scoring away to Arsenal. It was Barnsley in the League Cup (2-0) and Stoke in the FA Cup (4-1 in a replay after a 0-0 at the Britannia).
Cups were an afterthought in a campaign which saw the second going of Kevin Keegan, a shock Joe Kinnear sighting and the miserable managerial arrival of Alan Shearer, and it showed. In the League Cup, they squeezed past Coventry in extra time then exited at home to Tottenham. In the FA Cup, they lost a third-round replay against Hull at St James’ Park.
There was another excuse to overlook the cups in 2009/10: prioritising promotion back into the Premier League. As a result, they entertainingly got past Huddersfield 4-3 then flopped 2-0 at Peterborough in the League Cup, while in the FA Cup, they overcame Plymouth at the second attempt only to eat a 4-2 loss to promotion rivals West Brom in the fourth round.
This one got off to a delicious start, as they conquered Accrington and Chelsea (4-3 again) on their League Cup travels to build up expectations then were thrashed 4-0 when hosting Arsenal in a clash for a quarter-final spot. Worse was to come in the FA Cup: a 3-1 third-round defeat to League Two side Stevenage.
Alan Pardew’s first full season saw Newcastle clear early hurdles then collapse to lesser opposition. In the League Cup, extra time was needed to remove Scunthorpe and Nottingham Forest before Blackburn felled them in 120 minutes in another 4-3. In the FA Cup, they avenged that Blackburn loss 2-1 then choked 1-0 at Brighton. It wouldn’t be the last time that Gus Poyet made them miserable…
This was when the Toon Army began questioning how the manager who led West Ham to an FA Cup final and Southampton to the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy had lost his cup touch. A “fair enough” 2-1 reverse in their League Cup opener at Manchester United was followed by a FA Cup third-round exit at Brighton, this time 2-0. In more positive news, they reached the Europa League quarter-finals.
The Capital One Cup went to form, with lower-league duo Morecambe and Leeds dismissed before Manchester City proved to be good in extra time on Tyneside. The FA Cup failure was harder to defend: they were knocked out at home to Premier League strugglers Cardiff.
As in 2010/11, the Capital One Cup inspired optimism only to end in crushing disappointment. They won away to Gillingham, Crystal Palace (extra time) and holders Man City, then were thumped 4-0 by Tottenham. John Carver showed that their lengthy FA Cup lean streak wasn’t all Pardew’s fault by overseeing a 1-0 third-round departure at Leicester.
Overall FA Cup Figures
P14 W3 D3 L8
Rounds Cleared: 3/11 (27%)
Best Effort: Fourth Round (2007/08, 2009/10, 2011/12)
Overall Capital One Cup Figures
P20 W8 D6 L6
Rounds Cleared: 12/20 (60%)
Best Effort: Quarter-finals (2014/15)
The Betfair Sportsbook has plenty of specials relating to McClaren’s stay at Newcastle. He is 1/3 to see out the 2015/16 season, evens to beat Sunderland in 2015/16, 2/1 to adopt a Geordie accent on a TV appearance and 6/1 to sign at least one Derby player.