Newcastle chief fired up for cup challenge

Steve McClaren
Steve McClaren
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Steve McClaren says his Newcastle United squad is strong enough to compete on three fronts as they look to end a 60-year drought for a domestic cup.

Newcastle host Northampton Town in the second round of the Capital One Cup tonight – and McClaren says he is taking the competition seriously and will play his “strongest possible” team.

Here, we have the squad to progress in the cups – both of them.

Under Mike Ashley, domestic cup competitions have not been a priority but the appointment of McClaren – who won the League Cup with Middlesbrough in 2004 – changed that.

The trophy drought extends back 46 years since the 1969 Fairs Cup triumph, while the last time they won a domestic cup was in 1955 – six decades ago.

McClaren isn’t dreaming of a trip to Wembley – just yet – but admits his squad will be giving it their best shot, even though he is likely to make several changes tonight.

“In three years at Middlesbrough we built a squad that could handle the Premier League and the cup,” said McClaren, who has made five summer signings.

“We could get enough results to stay in the Premier League, then focus a little bit on the later rounds of the cup.

“Many teams can focus on the cup later on, if they have the squad.

“Here, we have the squad to progress in the cups – both of them.”

McClaren has warned his side against complacency ahead of the clash with League Two Northampton and believes a good cup run is important for boosting morale and building momentum.

“When I was at Middlesbrough, it was the first major trophy in 128 years and to be perfectly honest they had been to Wembley quite a few times and had opportunities,” said McClaren.

“They were very close.

“128 years – I hope we don’t have to wait that long!

“I have not even thought about dreaming of Wembley.

“The fans probably have, but lets get this round out of the way first.

“Really, at this stage, it is just about winning matches and you don’t start dreaming of anything else until later on,” added McClaren.

McClaren insists Newcastle haven’t been alone in not previously classing the cups as a priority.

He added: “I think the only difference was probably that they voiced it – other clubs kept it quite.

“There were times at my first year at Middlesbrough when the Carling Cup was used to blood youngsters.

“It depends on what squad you have. I believe here we have got a strong squad.

“If you look at the team tonight, that will be the strongest team I can play, in terms of what happened last Saturday (at Manchester United) and what is happening this Saturday (at home to Arsenal). It will be the strongest I can possibly play to win the game.”