It has been 68 years since Newcastle tasted glory in a major cup competition.
Since their FA Cup triumph in 1955, life in this country and city has changed dramatically, but one thing has endured – the love so many locals have for the team. A passion that is at a fever pitch as the team takes over Manchester United in the Carabao Cup final today.
The sense of anticipation in the city was not lost on their manager, Eddie Howe, who spoke to Sky News at a media day held at the club’s training facility earlier in the week.
“From the people I meet in town and any interactions I have with supporters, whether it’s 6 o’clock in the morning outside the stadium or when I’m leaving,” he said.
“The passion here and the support for their team is really incredible.
“Well, I think the players know the responsibilities they have, to be the best.”
The team today will be captained by England international Kieran Trippier, who has played 40 times for England, including the 2020 European Cup Final at Wembley, where today’s final will be held.
Despite his experience at the highest level, Trippier, 32, says playing in front of Newcastle’s die-hard fans still surprises him.
“You don’t realize until you actually play for Newcastle how passionate the fans are, how crazy the atmosphere is,” he said, “even sometimes I get butterflies when we leave.”
That fervor was in full swing at The Back Page, a souvenir shop a short walk from the club’s St James’s Park stadium.
There, the shelves are lined with trinkets from the club’s past, from vintage shirts to old programs and matchday scarves.
Even though they have been almost men for almost seven decades, Newcastle United it has a rich history – a fact that the in-store TV screens remind you of as they play highlights on repeat.
This Wednesday, it was packed with fans looking for more memorabilia to add to their collection ahead of the final.
“Newcastle United is in our blood here”
Anas Hassan, who regularly travels from his home in Fife, Scotland to Tyneside to watch the team play, said he felt “warm in the heart” about the club’s recent run of good form.
“Knowing that there is a unity here, people are behind the team and they want to win their first major English trophy since 1955. I think obviously, the excitement levels are going up,” added Hasan, who said he would be in Newcastle to celebrate next week if they can win the cup today.
Meanwhile, Stephen Cook, who works at the store, put it simply: “Newcastle United is in our blood here, it means so much.”
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The context surrounding Newcastle United’s success this season, challenging for a top-four finish in the Premier League that would mean qualification for next season’s Champions League, has not been without controversy, however.
Last year the club was occupied by a consortium including Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) – a process that has raised questions about alleged human rights abuses linked to the Saudi regime.
The debate around that will continue, but the window displays and queues of fans waiting to see the players on the way to the training ground this week are a reminder that the links between the club and the community are long and strong.
“Everybody wants to win”
Downtown, you could feel the excitement among people of all ages.
An elderly woman said: “It’s great what he’s doing for the town, everyone wants to win, there’s a buzz about the place, which is always good.”
One young mother summed up the love for a place renowned for its love of the beautiful game: “Now we have a team that’s back on top, the magic is back.
“So what does Newcastle as a team mean to Newcastle as a place? It’s magical.”