The last time Newcastle United was in a domestic cup final, I was a 16-year-old Welsh kid in the UK watching my favorite player (still to this day) and national hero Gary Speed trying to help us to snatch our first piece of silverware in 30 years. Sadly, that day ended in defeat and proved to be the height of our last 25 years' "successes."
Fast forward to the 2022-23 season and while the opponent and the 0-2 scoreline ringed eerily similar, I left The Celtic on Market in Denver, Colorado, feeling disappointed yet hopeful.
Below are one fan’s takeaways from Newcastle United’s loss to Manchester United in the Carabao Cup Final last weekend.
1. Allan Saint-Maximin will leave St James’ Park this summer
While on his day Maxi is unplayable (see: Man City at home earlier this season), those days don’t come often enough.
He’s a flair player that a well-drilled team like ours can ill afford. Yes, he can produce the odd moment of magic, but not nearly frequently enough; his passing in the final third is woeful at times, and while his tracking back and pressing has improved, he doesn’t fit the mold Eddie is looking for in a winger.
Against Manchester United, he was decent but often left us exposed on the left and Antony had many 1-on-1s with the not-quite-pacy Dan Burn as a result.
Maxi has had enough chances, and it’s time for us to cash in.
2. We struggled to unlock another defense who sat deep... and it’s becoming a recurring theme
After Man United went 2-0 up, we were left to chase the game and try to break them down. They were happy to cede possession to us and challenged us to find a way through.
Too often, we tried to thread the killer pass but either the accuracy was off or the finish didn’t come. We are missing a creative midfielder to compliment Bruno—and probably another natural finisher if we’re honest—as when Wor Bruno has an off day, we’re very short of ideas.
3. Eddie hasn’t figured out where best to play Isak yet
With us down two at halftime, Howe turned to Alexander Isak to replace Sean Longstaff and gave us something different. While Isak made some nice runs, mostly down the right-hand side, he didn’t seem to fit there.
With Callum Wilson out of form, perhaps we see Isak line up in his place as CF against Man City this weekend? Or... could we finally see the pair start together, given both of them are healthy?
4. We lacked the strength in depth that Manchester United were able to call upon
It was telling that Man United could call on Jadon Sancho from the bench, while minutes earlier we brought on Jacob Murphy. With all due respect to Murphy, Sancho is a full international with UCL experience... while Murphy is just a decent squad player.
Strengthening our squad so we can afford to use impact players from the bench will come in time, and I look forward to it immensely!
5. Wor Flags crushed it again
The surfer flag and the multitude of black-and-white flags across Wembley were incredible. If we could have won the cup based on our support, we would have done so with some room to spare.
It’s so great to have Wor Flags back and seeing them seamlessly transition their efforts from SJP to Wembley was so much fun to watch.
6. Our. Time. Will. Come.
While there certainly are things to work on for Eddie and the staff, the feeling I have now as I look back on the weekend is one of hope and pride.
Seeing our incredible fans flying their flags at 0-2 down with mere minutes to go brought a cheer and round of applause from the patrons at The Celtic on Market in Denver, and (although I may be biased) I maintain that we have the best fans in the world.
Ultimately, we lost to the better team on Sunday, and we just weren’t good enough on the day. But how incredible was it to have that moment? The anticipation and expectation approaching the game… The hope and belief finally returning! Having that back after 25 years felt so good, and long may it continue!
Finally, thank you.
To our owners, for investing in the club and team. To our manager and his staff, for making us believe again. To the players, for giving it their all.
We don’t demand a team that wins, just a club that tries.
I feel confident it won’t be another 25 years until we next grace Wembley Way, and hopefully, we can take the trophy home with us next time!