It’s been 68 years since Newcastle United tasted glory in major cup competitions.
Since their FA Cup triumph in 1955, life in this country and city has changed dramatically, but one thing has endured – the love of so many locals for the team. A passion that reaches fever pitch when the party is involved Manchester United in today’s Carabao Cup final.
The sense of anticipation in the city did not go unnoticed by their coach, Eddie Howe, who spoke to Sky News during a media day held at the club’s training ground earlier in the week.
“From the people I meet in the city and any interactions I have with the fans, whether it’s at 6am outside the training ground or when I leave,” he said.
“The passion here and the support for their team is truly amazing.
“So I think players know the responsibilities they have to be the best.”
Today’s team will be led by England international Kieran Trippier, who has capped 40 times for England, including the 2020 European Cup final at Wembley, where the final will take place today.
Despite his experience at the highest level, Trippier, 32, says playing in front of fanatical Newcastle fans still amazes him.
“You don’t even realize until you play for Newcastle how passionate the fans are, how crazy the atmosphere is,” he said, “even I get butterflies sometimes when we go out.”
This zeal was on full display at The Back Page, a gift 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 old shirts to old matchday programs and scarves.
Even if they’ve been almost men for nearly seven decades, Newcastle United has a rich history – this is reminded by the TV screens in the store, which replay the most interesting moments over and over again.
This Wednesday was packed with fans looking for more memorabilia to add to their collection ahead of the final.
‘Newcastle United are in our blood here’
Anas Hassan, who regularly travels from his home in Fife, Scotland to Tyneside to see the team play, said his heart was warmed by the club’s recent good form.
“Knowing that there is unity here, people stand behind the team and want them to win their first major English trophy since 1955. I think the level of excitement is obviously rising,” added Hassan, who said he will be in Newcastle to celebrate next week if they manage to win the cup today.
Meanwhile, Stephen Cook, who works at the shop, put it simply: “Newcastle United are in our blood here, it means a lot.”
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The backdrop of Newcastle United’s success this season as they battle for a top-four finish in the Premier League, which would mean qualifying for next season’s Champions League, has not been without controversy, however.
last year the club was taken over by a consortium that includes the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) – in a process that raised questions about alleged human rights violations related to the Saudi Arabian regime.
The debate on this will continue, but the shop windows and queues of fans waiting for players on their way to the pitch this week are a reminder that the ties between club and community are long-lasting and strong.
“Everyone wants them to win”
In the city center you could feel the excitement among people of all ages.
An elderly woman said, “It’s great what it’s doing for the city, everyone wants them to win, there’s a lot of buzz about this place which is always good.”
The young mother summed up the love that a place famous for its austerity has for the beautiful game: “Now we have a team soaring, the magic is back.
“So what does Newcastle as a team mean to Newcastle as a venue? It’s magic”.