Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 8 July 2020

Newcastle United: Wembley wonders to FA Cup catastrophes

Ahead of their quarter-final against Manchester City on Sunday, we take a look how one the most successful clubs in the competition's history have failed to lift the trophy in 65 years

When Newcastle United take to the field for their FA Cup quarter-final clash with Manchester City on Sunday, it will be a strange sensation for their success-starved band of supporters.

First of all, instead of 50,000 roaring them on at St James' Park, the ground will be eerily empty due to the restrictions forced upon football due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Secondly, Newcastle reaching this stage of the competition has become an unheard of event in recent years. And finally, there is a sense that a bright new era might be just around the corner for a club that long been stuck in a constant state of turmoil.

The FA Cup is generally over for Magpies fans by the end of January. The match against City will be first time Newcastle have reached this heady stage of the competition in 14 years.

Back in 2006, caretaker manager Glenn Roeder – who had taken temporary charge of the Tyneside club after the sacking of Graeme Souness – saw his team lose 1-0 to a Chelsea side, led by Jose Mourinho, who would go on to win the Premier League that campaign.

From that season onwards, Newcastle's FA Cup story has been miserable for a team that has only been outside the top-flight for two campaigns.

When British businessman Mike Ashley began his controversial reign of the club in 2007, it quickly became clear to managers, players and fans alike that the priority was always securing top-flight status.

Resting key players for FA Cup ties has long been de rigueur for Premier League sides, terrified of dropping out of the division and missing out on the unimaginable riches thrown at clubs through TV deals and sponsorship.

But for a club that has not won a major domestic competition since 1955, the path forced upon successive managers from Kevin Keegan through to Rafa Benitez last season, is one that has infuriated supporters.

Under Ashley, Newcastle have never made it beyond the fourth round and in fact exited in Round 3 – when top-flight clubs first enter the tournament – six times.

Out of those 12 attempts, the black and whites were beaten by lower-league opposition on four occasions.

What makes it all the more galling for fans is that Newcastle remain one of the most successful clubs in the competition's proud history.

They have appeared in the final on 13 occasions, a record that can only be beaten by Liverpool (14), Manchester United and Arsenal (both 20).

Newcastle captains have lifted the cup on six occasions, with only six clubs able to say they have done it more.

In the 1950s – with the team filled with top-rank attacking talent such as Bobby Mitchell, George Robledo and spearheaded by the club's former record goalscorer, Jackie Milburn – the Magpies were victorious at the old Wembley Stadium three times in five seasons.

The last of which – a 3-1 over Sunday's opponent's City, when Milburn opened the scoring after just 45 seconds – would be the last time Newcastle secured a domestic trophy.

They would appear in three more finals. In 1974, Keegan, a future Geordie hero as both player and manager, would score twice as Liverpool trounced Joe Harvey's side 3-0.

Fast forward 25 years, Newcastle would be back at Wembley two seasons in a row but would lose both in comprehensive fashion.

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Such was the Magpies' luck, that would first come up against a superb Arsenal side in 1998, managed by Arsene Wenger, that would go on to secure the Double by beating Kenny Dalglish's men 2-0.

The following year, it was Alex Ferguson's treble winning Manchester United team who swept aside the hapless black and whites, now managed by Ruud Gullit, also by 2-0.

Since then, barring runs to the semi-final in 2000 and 2005 – under Bobby Robson and Souness, respectively – the cup has generally been a tale of woe for a once proud club.

Even this season's journey to the last eight has flirted with disaster along the way.

Steve Bruce's men needed a replay to get past League One Rochdale 4-1 at home in the third round, after drawing 1-1 in the first game in Lancashire.

In Round 4, they needed a replay and extra-time to dispose of another third-tier side in Oxford United, 3-2, after a dispiriting goalless draw at St James' Park.

Championship leaders West Bromwich Albion were next up and, after coasting into a 3-0 lead, Newcastle conceded twice before hanging on for a nervy victory.

"Unfortunately it's in our DNA," Bruce said after the match. "When we went 3-0 up we switched off. Sometimes you think it's too easy and suddenly they get a goal back.

"It wouldn't be Newcastle if we didn't do something like that. We made hard work of it."

"Hard work" would be one way of describing the entire Ashley era on Tyneside. So it would certainly be ironic that with the unpopular owner seemingly on the brink of selling the club to a Saudi Arabia-backed consortium, Newcastle are two games away from another Wembley final.

And Jamaal Lascelles can start dreaming of becoming the first Newcastle captain to lift the FA Cup again after an agonising, 65-year wait.

Updated: June 28, 2020 10:44 AM

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