The week has arrived.
The game will do soon.
Wembley will grace two teams United.
Newcastle and Manchester. Black and Red. Top-five squads in the Premier League.
Talk about a monster League Cup final, isn’t it?
The Magpies arrive at the last match of any competition for the first time since they reached the FA Cup final in 1999. Our boys haven’t won a major thing since the 1969 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. You don’t even remember that because you had not been born yet. Confess.
This has been 54 years in the making. You’re not that old yet. Nobody reading this is. Confess again.
Howe took to the microphones and addressed the most pressing questions by the media on Tuesday, ahead of the matchup against Manchester United at a glorious Wembley scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 26.
Eddie Howe faced the pressure of handling the media at his pre-match press conference on Tuesday as he will try to end a tedious 54-year spell without a major trophy getting to Newcastle’s stadium.
The gaffer was expected to talk on Monday after the defeat to Liverpool last Saturday but decided to delay that affair in front of the cameras given the result and the tensions created by Nick Pope’s straight red card against the Reds forcing him to miss Sunday’s final.
First things first, Howe addressed Pope’s suspension:
“I’m feeling disappointed for Nick. That was my whole emotion after the game and [Monday].”
“Pope has given his all for the team. He’s been outstanding this year so I felt for him but (I’m) also pleased for another goalkeeper to get an opportunity.”
Abut that “another goalkeeper” thing...
“I think we have to be very positive about our situation and the game. Yes, it’s a blow to lose Nick but we still believe in the team and the group we have.”
“[Loris Karius] has a magnificent chance to rewrite the story of his career.”
All of the above said the truth is that Howe didn’t commit to Karius starting Sunday’s game. The options come down to the former Liverpool keeper or veteran Mark Gillespie, though, as Martin Dubravka is cup-tied having played for Manchester United—of all teams—when on loan there.
“It would be a magnificent chance for [Karius] to rewrite the story of his career.”
“There’s been loads of stories through the times in football where these things have happened and there’s been a really positive outcome or not. We can’t predict what that will be.”
“As soon as [Pope was sent off] it was almost that feeling that there’s another story in Karius’ career—another page or chapter to write and who knows what that chapter will look like? That’s the beauty of football. We never know what is going to happen. This unpredictability is what makes it such an amazing thing to watch.”
Howe is also relieved that the game he qualified for nearly a month ago is finally happening after so much waiting.
“I’m pleased the game is here. I think it’s been a difficult few weeks for us because the talk has been about [the final] even though it’s been two or three (league) games down the line.”
“We’re desperate to play in it, do well and do the club proud.”
“It’s an intense week when you’re building up to any game, let alone a cup final because there’s a lot of things you have to do that takes your time and energy.”
“I’m excited by the training week. I love being on the training pitch with the players, and we’ll try and get all our preparations right.”
It’s been so much time since Newcastle lifted a trophy that all of this magical aura might be getting a little bit out of hand, although it’s perfectly reasonable if you’re a member of the Toon Army and are already feeling some butterflies.
With Newcastle having lost to Liverpool in their last game and going through a rough overall set of results lately having not won a game since Jan. 31, Howe still keeps his spirits up ahead of the clash against Manchester United at Wembley.
“I believe we can win any game in the Premier League against any team, home or away, if we’re absolutely at our best and we’ve proved that this season when we have been.”
“We’ve beaten some really good teams and been very consistent with our form.”
“We believe the power is in our hands and it’s up to us to perform at those best levels.”
This final is the first one for Newcastle when it comes to domestic trophies since they made it to the FA Cup's last game all the way back in 1955, nearly 60 years ago. Howe knows it’s been quite some time with a dried cupboard at Tyneside and wants to change that this weekend even with a classic behemoth sitting at the other end of the pitch.
“I always believe that the history, from my side, is respected but we’re trying to create new history with a new team at a new moment.”
“We’re determined to try and do that and create some great memories for our amazing supporters.”
“I always believe in being positive and optimistic.”
This is, though, the highest-stakes match some of the Newcastle players have ever played at.
“I think the players know the responsibilities that they have to go into a game like this and try to be the best that we can.”
“When you get to this stage, I think they know the pressures they will face so it’s a case from my position of trying to take them away and get to focus on the match itself.”
Expanding on the goalies available for Sunday—Karius and Gillespie—Howe detailed some of the discussions the three of them have had in the last few hours and ahead of this historic meeting. He also revealed the team’s training structure and how a change in the goalposts shouldn’t mean broad changes elsewhere.
“Goalkeepers of Loris’ and Mark’s experience, where they’ve both played a lot of football in their careers, I have got no doubt of their match fitness because of the way that they train.”
“I have had conversations with both players and they’re in a good place.”
“We work with a lot of rhythm and structure, anyway, so our work won’t change. It’ll just have different personnel in it but the work itself is very consistent and I believe in that from a defensive perspective.”
“You have an idea of how you defend as a team and then, depending on personnel, you work the same way and this season, we’ve defended brilliantly. We go to work normally this week.”
Finally, Howe shared some words about the Toon Army and their God-level support of Newcastle.
“From the people that I meet around the city and any interactions I have with supporters, whether that’s at 6 AM outside the training ground or when I’m leaving, the passion here and support for their team is truly incredible.”
We’re hours away, folks. It’s been 50+ freaking years since gold hit St James’ Park for the last time, so enjoy the weekend and have a blast on Sunday no matter the result.
Yes, we all want to celebrate a Carabao Cup victory, but it’s not that this opportunity arrives every other year. That said and more than ever...
- Date: Sunday, February 26th
- Kick-off: 16:30 BST / 11:30 EST
- Location: Wembley, London (England)
- Broadcasts: DAZN (CAN) — ESPN + (USA) — SKY GO Extra, Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Football (UK)
For all your international watching needs, check LiveSoccerTV.com.