42: The number of years since Newcastle have won any silverware of any distinction. That's not a drought on the level of the Chicago Cubs, by any means, but it's longer than I've been on this earth. I'd like to see a trophy that doesn't have anything to do with the Intertoto Cup before I'm in the ground, and you never know when you're going to get your opportunities. I've said this before - I don't agree with the idea that you put all of your eggs in the "Surviving the Premiership" basket. Sure, a League Cup victory would mean nothing if the team were relegated, but at some point you have to stop being satisfied with mere survival. Our boys will be putting on the black and white stripes and playing for a chance to advance in cup play tonight, and to expect anything less than for the team to go all out to win is blasphemy in my eyes. The League Cup is as much a part of the season as Sunday's derby match will be. In the words of the great Lester Freamon, "All the pieces matter." Besides, wouldn't it be a shame to waste that win we earned at Stamford Bridge?
Arsene Winger seems to agree with me, and Arsenal's "drought number" is a mere 5. FIVE! Ultimately, I think it is this attitude that proves my point more than anything. I don't think anybody, even the most naive of Magpie supporters, fancies Newcastle as the best team in England right now, but I want this team to be the kind of team that is disappointed when they haven't produced anything in the last five years. I don't want to be content with survival. We're not at a place where we can demand the kind of success that the Gunners can, but winning the League Cup would go a long way towards breeding the confidence that leads to that success. In other words, this match probably means more long-term than this week's tie against the mackems will, as much fun as it is to put the SMB's in their place.
What to do about selection, then? Winger says he will play his squad at "near full strength," while Hughton seems to be taking the opposite tactic. Missing Cesc Fabregas is good news for The Toon, but it won't make a bit of difference if Tamas Kadar is out there kicking around. I expect the lineup will look somewhat like the following, as much as I wish it wouldn't: Soderberg, Kadar, Williamson, R.Taylor, Simpson, Guthrie, Smith, Vuckic, Routledge, Ameobi, Ranger. The saving grace would be a stacked bench that Hughton could use if the scrubs could stay close through 60 or 70 minutes, but that's asking a lot. (Side note: I wonder if reserve manager Peter Beardsley will be on hand to "audition" as the assistant.)
I expect Arsenal to come out guns blazing (pardon the pun) and take a decisive 4-1 victory, which will be a shame, given that Ipswich Town will be among the teams in the draw for the next round. Prove me wrong, lads.