Are Newcastle United fans asking the wrong question?

The World Cup break comes at a time when Newcastle United fans have seen their team move into the lofty heights of third place.

This follows on from advancing through to the fourth round of the League Cup and the question has been asked amongst Newcastle United fans, would you rather reach the Champions League or win the League Cup?

There are good arguments for both options.

Champions League entry guarantees a much higher income level, both from TV revenues and sponsorship opportunities. Financially, this would relieve much of the pressure on FFP constraints, allowing for more investment in the squad before schedule.

The League Cup would end the trophy drought from 1969 onwards.

Before getting carried away, some things should be put in context.

The penalties victory against Palace was the first time we have beaten a Premier League team in the League Cup since 2014. The last of those was away against Manchester City, having already beaten Palace in the previous round.

For now, we are in the last 16 with a winnable home tie against Bournemouth. Of the remaining clubs in the notorious six, Man City have to play Liverpool with Man U having a home tie against Burnley. There would be only a two in seven chance of playing one of those three in the last eight (assuming Man U win at Old Trafford and NUFC beat Bournemouth). We can dream of a semi-final, only one of those teams, Man City, being above us in the league.

On the other hand, as things stand, a top four place appears well within our grasp, our destiny mathematically in our hands.

Some of the toughest games, on paper, are behind us; Liverpool, Man U and Spurs away, Man City and Chelsea at home. Obviously, the reverse fixtures are to come with home and away matches against the Gunners. Man City have yet to host Arsenal, the latter having all of their January fixtures against teams currently in the top five.

Mathematically, a top two place is in our own hands.

The route is tougher but should Newcastle United fans be asking if the Premier League title should be the target?

Man City, Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal have the potential to face fixture congestion with at least two more Champions League fixtures to resolve. Chances are that at least some of them will have four more, perhaps six or seven. A similar situation can be seen in the Europa League with Arsenal and Man U, both also facing budget pressures from having missed out on the top UEFA competition.

However, let’s not get too optimistic too soon, after all, we could have our own fixture congestion with the FA Cup still to come. Some will debate the squad depth at Newcastle United, even now.

The World Cup gives us the opportunity for players who have featured little, notably ASM and Isak, to get to top fitness before our campaigns on three fronts resume. On the other hand, we have to cross our fingers that Pope, Trippier, Wilson, Bruno and Schar avoid injury in Qatar. However, our near competitors have more players at risk.

Another opportunity provided by the World Cup has been to shorten the number of games played before the transfer window.

Yes, it has been put out that the club will not be spending big in January. After £200 million spent by the Staveley consortium, FFP limits will be relatively tight but is there room for manoeuvre, especially given what must have been a significant rise in the wage bill?

The answer is, that it depends on sales. We have a full senior squad of 25 but looking back on the season, several players have been barely used; Dummett, Ritchie, Lewis, Lascelles, Fraser, Gillespie, Manquillo, plus of course Shelvey back from injury. Lewis aside, due to Ashley’s contract extensions, the book value on those players is negligible. The same could be said of Murphy who has contributed from the bench.

In practice, as regular readers will know, a £10 million profit on a player sold, equates to FFP allowing £40 million to be spent on signing a new player on a four year contract. There can be plenty of debate on who might improve the squad at that price.

So back to the question, should Newcastle United fans be asking whether we should be happy winning the League Cup, do we want to win the Premier League, or should we chase a treble?

Changing perspective, should we look forward to reaching 40 points in January and just enjoy the ride with no pressure?

In what was to be a building season, we can have a lot of fun, with even brighter days to come.

For now, let’s just say move over Dennis Tueart, 1976 is history.

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