Newcastle United can end 54 years of hurt with League Cup final win and leave the past behind
The Magpies are bidding to claim their first domestic silverware since 1955 at Wembley Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
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The full-time whistle sounding at Wembley Stadium on Sunday evening could potentially bring a whole spectrum of emotions for Newcastle United supporters, depending on the events of the previous 90 or 120 minutes.
Should Eddie Howe’s side come out on the wrong end of their Carabao Cup Final clash with Manchester United, it would be a sobering reminder that for all of the undoubted progress of the last year, there is still a long way to go in their bid to become a genuine superpower in English football.
A short, sharp stinging realisation that despite being viewed as ‘the richest club in the world’ following the controversial and much-debated takeover by a Saudi-led consortium, their journey is still in its formative stages and the road ahead is long, winding and fraught with pitfalls.
It would signal the frustration and anguish caused by an extension of the painfully long search for major silverware and further reminders that the Magpies are rapidly closing in on the 70th anniversary of their last domestic trophy win.
However, the opposite result, what feels like an unthinkable Newcastle win, would bring euphoria, emotion and elation for those of a black and white persuasion and hand immortality and offers of free drinks for years to come for the men that helped deliver true success where many of their predecessors fell short.
For two generations of Magpies supporters, it would be a chance to firmly move on from the stomach-churning, soul-shattering feeling of ‘Collymore closing in’, a drained Kevin Keegan slumped over the Anfield hoardings and the sheer heartache and frustration of timid performances in their last four cup final appearances. They can forget the haunting images of players in black and white strewn across Wembley’s hallowed turf or the pained expressions etched onto the faces of those in the stands that simply screamed of so near, yet so far.
For the younger generation, even being at Wembley for a major competition must seem like a new dawn after the darkness fuelled by a lack of ambition and hope under Mike Ashley’s loveless ownership at St James’ Park.
Those years did offer all too brief glimpses of light, with an unexpected fifth placed finish fuelled by the brilliance of Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba preceding a run to the last eight of the Europa League.
Or Rafa Benitez, a man once charged with guiding the fortunes of such as Liverpool, Real Madrid and Inter Milan, inexplicably turning up on Tyneside to instil discipline, structure and organisation to the playing squad, giving some hope of progress despite the chaotic, haphazard events behind the scenes at the club.
In the grand scheme of things, despite feeling like meaningful successes at the time, both of those ‘achievements’ never really felt long-lasting or enduring and there was always a sense of reality hitting hard at some point. Nor do they represent success on the level that the current leading lights in English football judge themselves by.
Perhaps the coldest moment of Ashley’s ownership came with the statement confirming the club would not be prioritising cup competitions because the fortunes gained by merely ‘ticking along’ in the Premier League far surpass those handed out as a reward for trophy wins.
This was a kick in the teeth for generation after generation of a fanbase raised on stories of ‘Wor Jackie’ Milburn helping the Magpies to three historic FA Cup wins in five years during 1950s and a cigar-smoking Joe Harvey leading United to Fairs Cup glory against the likes of Sporting Lisbon, Feyenoord and Ujpest Dosza in 1969.
Depressingly familiar cup exits at the hands of the likes of Oxford United, Stevenage and Cardiff City remain firmly lodged into the psyche and there have been short, sharp reminders with recent shock losses at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday and Cambridge United.
Such is their lack of experience on such an occasion, many Newcastle supporters may struggle to visualise or even contemplate how they will react if the full-time whistle blows and signals the end of 54 years of waiting come Sunday evening. Even daring to dream of such a moment has felt beyond comprehension in recent years.
There will be an outpouring of emotion, there will surely be more than a few tears of happiness, and more than anything, there will be a sense of that overwhelming belief of witnessing history and the disappointments of the past being left behind.
For those reasons, there could be no sweeter sound than the full-time whistle on Sunday evening.