Steve McClaren says he will throw everything at the FA Cup – despite Newcastle United’s precarious Premier League position.
McClaren’s injury-hit side – which will take on Watford at Vicarage Road in the third round of the competition on Saturday – is fighting a relegation battle.
The FA Cup is as important as any other game.
The club has named weakened teams in the competition in recent seasons, with top-flight survival having been the club’s priority.
Owner Mike Ashley, however, signalled a change in policy towards the cups on the final day of last season.
In a surprise TV interview Ashley said the club would “definitely win something” under his ownership.
With 18th-placed United in danger of being relegated – and missing out on a new multi-billion pound TV deal next term – the over-riding priority for the club, yet again, is to stay in the Premier League.
But McClaren, the club’s head coach, has pledged to name a “strong team” in the competition.
Asked if he would be still be taking the FA Cup seriously, McClaren said: “Yes, I’m absolutely confident we can have a go at that. We’ll play a strong team and every game is important.
“The FA Cup is as important as any other game. It’s another game we want to win.”
Newcastle have never got beyond the fourth round of the competition since Ashley bought the club, and there was a fierce backlash from fans after last season’s third-round exit.
Then-head coach John Carver promised to name a strong team for the club’s tie away at Leicester City.
Carver – who was missing a number of players because of injuries – went on to make seven changes for the game at the King Power Stadium, which United lost 1-0.
And the early cup exit did not help Newcastle’s league form, with the club having gone on to struggle near the foot of the division for the rest of the campaign.
United’s league status was only confirmed on the final day of the season.
McClaren – whatever his fears about fatigue and the potential for further injuries – could take the view that another defeat would have a demoralising impact on his team ahead of an important run of league fixtures.
As such, he may feel that cup progress could help the team in the league.
Also, in the wake of Ashley’s comments in May, the club overhauled the players’ bonus scheme.
United’s players will pocket six-figure bonuses if the club ends its 47-year wait for silverware this season.
Newcastle, however, are 100/1 outsiders to lift the trophy.