I saw some claims earlier in the week about the club having a losing mentality and that Newcastle United fans who had a great weekend are a problem.

It prompted me to write the below opinion piece.

I had a great weekend and no one is telling me otherwise.

Taking Newcastle United to a cup final, will not have been a hard target set by the club for Eddie Howe and his team this year, but it was just reward for the fantastic season they have had.

Safe to say that little over 16 months ago when we were sitting in the relegation zone and completely unable to find a win anywhere under Steve Bruce, all Newcastle United fans would have bitten your hand off to be where we are this week; even after a disappointing result on Sunday.

The trip down to Wembley felt like the culmination of the hard work that the team have put in over the last 16 months and it felt like it was only right for the patience that so many of us have given this club for the last years and decades. Patience that was wearing thin.

I hadn’t ever before considered packing-in my season ticket, the weekly ritual of 20+ years was too engrained into my life, but thoughts started to cross my mind after being knocked out of this competition last season. In August, losing at home to Burnley on penalties. We made nine changes that day, definitely fielding a second string side against fellow Premier League strugglers as Steve Bruce looked to protect the likes of ASM and Wilson so that we could focus all of our efforts on the basic task of survival.

Another season without a cup run. Another season of clinging on. Another season of systematic neglect. Ambition was nowhere to be seen.

All that feels like an awful long time ago now.

I have enjoyed football more in the last year than I ever have before. I’ve enjoyed the home match day experience, following the team, enjoyed listening to way more podcasts at work, reading about the club more, talking about the club more, the gossip, the restoration of pride and most importantly – the class performances. Nothing aligns more perfectly to the contrast in mood than the contrast in the league cup runs between this year and last.

Being honest, the cup final weekend started on Friday. Finishing work a bit early so I could drive up to my parents’ house for dinner, ready to leave from there with my Dad on Saturday morning down to the big smoke. We played pool, talked potential line-ups and strategised the weekend’s drinking.

Saturday came and there was a definite buzz in the air, first it’s Wetherby services -Black and white everywhere, then driving down the A1 with all the scarves and flags hanging out of car windows, then singing in Kings Cross, singing on the tube, it felt like the migration of the wildebeest. A couple of drinks and a bite to eat in Soho and its Trafalgar Square.

Newcastle Fans Trafalgar SquareYou’ve all either seen the pictures or were there, it was a sea of black and white. A decent sing song, a sax rendition of local hero, cans, laughs, it was nothing but a party.

Sunday morning, walking up Wembley way. Nerves were starting to kick in but not before another five hour party, this time in the green man. A fantastic event organised in aid of wor flags. We even had a surprise appearance from Darren Eales, which perfectly highlighted the shift in relationship between the club and the fans. I don’t recall Lee Charnley being on the boats to Fulham on the last day of the Championship season… Walking down the hill towards the ground, everyone was suitably warmed up. And this is where I stop. We all know what happened next.

I had had a great weekend and no one is telling me otherwise. All that which came before kick off was fantastic. I’m 28 now and I was three when we were last in a cup final – so I had never seen anything like this before. The numbers in town and the pride on display all weekend was stuff I had only ever heard stories about. No matter what the outcome of the game was, the weekend had already been class and that wasn’t going to change.

Now does this mean I wasn’t bothered about winning? Absolutely not. Every time I climb concrete steps I want to see this team win. And I had never been more desperate to see a win than on Sunday.

But I didn’t expect it. Man U went into the game as one of the most in form teams in world football, whereas we went into it off the back of three disappointing games; where I dare say it looked like the fatigue was setting in. Intensity is our identity but at a cost. We have over performed this season up until now and our opponents were firing on all cylinders after a slow start to their season. They have spent over a billion in the last ten years and have spent more than anyone else in Europe since the Glazers took over. Having lived under the shadow of their rivals in recent years the pressure was all on them this weekend. They collected their 11th trophy under the Glazers on Sunday as they closed their support with a rendition of “we want Glazers out”, free scarves aloft. Cry me a river.

I am obviously disappointed that we failed to win but that is not mutually exclusive with having had a good weekend.

There are fans who are older and wiser than I am, who may well call this a losers mentality…but I don’t care. The last thing you want is for your players and your team to have a losers mentality – and Bruno’s tears at full time really showed that they do not. But our job as fans is to pay our money, support the team loud and proud and to bloody enjoy it where you can. I did all that this weekend and hope that you did too.

The atmosphere in the run up to kick off and for the first 20/25 mins was fantastic but after we conceded it quickly fell flat. There were those of us who really tried to carry that, nursing ruined voices on the drive home Monday morning. However, it felt as if there were some who have been here before, done this before, and lost here before, who did not share enthusiasm for more vocal support through the beginning of the second half.

Wembley Scoreboard 90 minutes Carabao CupThe resurgence of flag waving and support in the dying mins was reminiscent of losing 4-0 at home to Manchester City last season; fans had resigned to the result and supported on in defiance, supported on in pride, rather than support in celebration. This is not done to comfort us fans. It’s done for the players. We demand a team that tries and back them now that we have them.

The days of half empty stands with five mins to go and booing your own team off, are behind us. Eddie Howe is teaching this lot how to win and we will support them. Through the rain, sleet and snow.

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