Tuesday is a historic night for Brentford, when we play our first-ever quarter-final in the League (now Carabao) Cup, as Newcastle visit the Brentford Community Stadium.
We have reached this stage by beating Premier League opposition in the shape of Southampton (2-0 away), West Brom (5-4 on penalties after a 2-2 draw away) and Fulham (3-0 home) after seeing off Championship rivals Wycombe (4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw home) in the first competitive match at our new home.
Newcastle started their campaign in the second round and have beaten Championship Blackburn (1-0 home), League Two Morecambe (7-0 away) and League Two Newport (5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw away).
The Magpies have never won this competition – although lost in the 1976 final to Manchester City – but have won the FA Cup six times and been runners-up on seven occasions, so have an impressive cup history.
However, their last FA Cup win was in 1955 and the last major trophy they lifted, other than a divisional title, was the 1969 Fairs Cup, in which they beat Hungarian side Ujpesti Dosza over two legs in the final.
Newcastle are currently 12th in the Premier League in their fourth year back in the top flight.
They have been in the Premier League for all but three of its seasons and were runners-up in 1996 and 1997, while they finished third in 1994 and 2003. Their best finish in the last decade was fifth in 2012.
Ivan Toney spent three years at Newcastle, after signing from Northampton in the summer of 2015, but only made two five-minute substitute appearances in the Premier League and two brief substitute appearances in the Capital One Cup for them.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Steve Bruce was appointed as Newcastle boss in the summer of 2019, the 10th different club he has managed.
The former Manchester United captain has taken charge of more than 900 games, more than 400 of those in the Premier League, in stints with Sheffield United, Huddersfield, Wigan (two spells), Crystal Palace, Birmingham, Sunderland, Hull, Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday.
He has won promotion to the Premier League four times (a record he shares with Neil Warnock) – twice with Birmingham and twice with Hull, who he also led to the FA Cup final.
As a player, he spent most of his career with Manchester United, winning three Premier League titles, three FA Cups, a League Cup and a Cup Winners’ Cup, while he also spent time with Gillingham, Norwich, Birmingham and Sheffield United.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Brentford and Newcastle have barely met over the years – with only eight league games and three meetings in cup competitions.
We have won three and lost five of the league encounters, while the Magpies have triumphed in all three cup ties.
The one most relevant to Tuesday night’s game was a second round League (Worthington) Cup tie in 2001 at St James’ Park.
It was quite a surreal experience as the match took place the day after the September 11 attacks in New York. Brentford chartered a special train to take fans to the match, and my memories of that journey are everybody silently reading any newspaper they could get hold of all journey.
It seemed odd to be going to football in those circumstances, but we did and the Second Division (now League One) Bees did us proud in taking our Premier League hosts to extra-time.
Lloyd Owusu gave us a shock 17th-minute lead – his goal can be seen at 10:31 on this video:
Shola Ameobi equalised in the 59th minute, but we took Bobby Robson’s Magpies, with Alan Shearer in the side, to extra-time.
However, that proved too much for us and a hat-trick by Craig Bellamy – who scored in the 108th, 117th and 120th minutes – gave Newcastle a 4-1 win.
Our FA Cup meetings came in the third round in 1938/39, when the Magpies won 2-0 at Griffin Park, and in the 1954/55 fourth round, when they beat us 3-2 in the north-east.
All of our eight league meetings have come in the second tier (now Championship).
We first met in the 1934/35 season and the Bees did the double on our way to winning the title, with a 5-2 win at St James’ Park and a 3-0 victory in the return.
Our next meetings came in 1947/48 and each game ended in a 1-0 home win.
The other league games are much fresher in the memory and have all been won by Newcatle.
The first was on a Sunday afternoon in October 1992, in our first season in the second tier since 1953/54, and was live on ITV, with Brian Moore commentating.
David Kelly put Kevin Keegan’s Magpies ahead in the first half and Gavin Peacock doubled the lead after the break before in a grandstand finish, Gary Blissett halved the deficit and then Marcus Gayle, now a Brentford club ambassador and summariser in the Bees Player commentary team, missed a great chance to snatch a point.
We were hammered 5-1 in the return with David Kelly, Paul Bracewell, Lee Clark (two) and Robert Lee on target for the hosts – with our reply a Kevin Scott own goal, as we slipped closer to immediate relegation.
Our other league meetings came in 2016/17.
The game at St James’ Park in October was a good day off the pitch but a disappointing one on it, as we let in two early goals on the way to a 3-1 defeat.
Ciaran Clark and Dwight Gayle put the Magpies in charge by the 16th minute and Gayle made it 3-0 soon after the break, before Scott Hogan quickly pulled one back from a corner.
Brentford were unlucky to go down to a 2-1 defeat in the return the following January.
Dwight Gayle gave the Championship leaders a 20th-minute lead, but Lasse Vibe equalised in the 52nd minute, and then came within millimetres of giving us the lead when he lifted the ball over Karl Darlow and watched as his shot hit the post and rolled along the goalline before being cleared.
Daryl Murphy, a regular thorn in Brentford’s side, headed a 79th-minute winner for Newcastle with his first league goal for the club.
Matthew Raisbeck, Newcastle United commentator at BBC Radio Newcastle, analyses the Magpies’ season so far, warns us that Steve Bruce takes cup competitions very seriously, and recalls his trip to the Griffin Park game between the two sides in 2017.
Q – First of all, what is the latest on the Covid outbreak at Newcastle, and how everyone has been affected?
A – It has been an extremely challenging few weeks for Newcastle United. After a significant rise in the number of cases of Covid-19 at the club, the training ground was closed for more than a week and their match away to Aston Villa was postponed. When they were cleared to return to training, they only had a couple of days, with a reduced squad, to prepare for the visit of West Brom. They won that match 2-1, and manager Steve Bruce and his players rightly received a lot of credit and respect for doing so.
The situation was probably a lot more serious than we thought. Bruce spoke about the virus “ripping through the squad”, and while the club won’t put a number on it, at least 10 members of the first team group – players and staff – are believed to have tested positive. Bruce says there is now “light at the end of the tunnel”, but he still has a number of players unavailable while they continue to recover.
Q – How would you assess the Magpies’ season so far?
A – They have recorded some good results so far and are in a reasonably comfortable position in the table. But, Steve Bruce is under pressure. There is a growing section of the fanbase that is unimpressed by him, and unhappy with the way the team is performing. Among the issues highlighted by his critics are: they sit too deep and invite pressure; they don’t dominate possession – and when they do have the ball, they don’t pass it quickly, and struggle to keep it; they don’t create enough chances; they’re not aggressive enough and don’t play on the front foot.
Callum Wilson, who joined from Bournemouth for £20m in the summer, has been terrific – scoring seven goals and always providing a threat. Karl Darlow, who had been second choice to Martin Dubravka before the Slovakian got injured in pre-season, has performed superbly in goal and may well keep his place in the team, long term.
After playing Brentford, they have to visit Manchester City, before hosting Liverpool and Leicester.
Q – How seriously have they been taking the Carabao Cup this season?
A – When he was appointed, Steve Bruce’s message was “let’s try to win a cup”. He spoke about how his attitude towards the cup competitions changed when he took Hull to the FA Cup final in 2014, and he sees no reason why a club like Newcastle can’t at least make the latter stages on a regular basis.
Last season, they got beyond the FA Cup fourth round for the first time in 14 years, eventually being knocked out by Manchester City in the quarter-finals.
And, in the League Cup this season, Bruce has been true to his word and picked strong teams for their ties against Blackburn, Morecambe and Newport – who took them to penalties – to ensure they got through. There is no doubt this will be a very difficult match and I am sure Bruce will select a side that shows respect to Brentford and to the competition, and one that he considers strong enough to win the tie.
Only once have Newcastle reached the last four of the League Cup – in 1975/76 when they were beaten finalists – and it is 55 years since their last major domestic trophy. There is a lot at stake for them.
Q – How much has the squad changed compared to last season’s?
A – For a number of years, Newcastle have preferred to sign younger players, often from Europe, who they feel will improve and who can, potentially, be sold on for a profit a few years down the line. This summer, Steve Bruce was also keen to add some Premier League experience to the squad, and, to be fair to the club, they backed him, bringing in Wilson, Ryan Fraser, Jamal Lewis and Jeff Hendrick – as well as goalkeeper Mark Gillespie from Motherwell – for a combined total of around £35m. Danny Rose, Nabil Bentaleb and Valentino Lazaro, who had been on loan, all returned to their parent clubs.
They have also tied down a number of players whose contracts were ending, such as Isaac Hayden, Matt Ritchie and Jonjo Shelvey, to new, long-term deals this year.
Q – What sort of job has Steve Bruce done since replacing Rafael Benitez in the hotseat?
A – It’s been very difficult for him, and it does feel like he will never convince what appears to be a growing number of fans that he is the right man for the job. Of course, Steve Bruce had nothing to do with Rafa Benitez’s departure but he was not the type of manager the supporters wanted to see replace Benitez, who remains hugely popular on Tyneside.
Bruce is known for being a good man-manager, and it is clear the players like him and want to do well for him.
Newcastle struggled at the start of last season but some good results before Christmas lifted them to a decent position, and they were effectively safe before the season was suspended in March. They finished 13th – the same as in Benitez’s final campaign.
Bruce often talks about how he wants to alter the style of play, making the team more attacking and exciting to watch, compared to what was a very structured, organised and defensive approach under Benitez, but that it “can’t happen overnight”. Still, some fans feel he has had long enough to implement his ideas and there isn’t much evidence of success.
Most, though, will still say the biggest problem at Newcastle is Mike Ashley’s ownership. It seemed as if his 13-year reign was finally coming to an end this summer but a takeover bid, backed by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, didn’t go through. The club has started legal proceedings against the Premier League over the issue.
Q – What do you remember of Newcastle’s last-ever visit to Griffin Park in January 2017?
A – It wasn’t exactly a comfortable afternoon for Newcastle but they came away with an important victory thanks to a late goal from Daryl Murphy. The main thing we remember about that match, aside from the terrific atmosphere at Griffin Park, is Dwight Gayle, who had put them 1-0 up with his 20th goal of the campaign, went off with a hamstring injury before half-time. He came back a month later but wasn’t quite the same player in the final months of the season. Had Gayle not been injured, I think Newcastle would have won promotion sooner.
Q – How much are you looking forward to visiting Brentford’s new stadium?
A – The new stadium looks fantastic and we can’t wait to visit, though it’s a shame that the match will be played behind closed doors. Hopefully, this will be a Premier League fixture next season.
Q – Who should Bees fans watching on TV look out for in the Magpies team?
A – The club’s record signing, Joelinton has struggled at times since being brought in for £40m last season. He’s definitely not an out-and-out striker, but his record in front of goal in cup competitions is decent, and some of his recent performances have been better.
Their most exciting player is the speedy French winger Allan Saint-Maximin, but he has been out of action for the last month.
The young player that fans are getting excited about is 18-year-old attacking midfielder Elliot Anderson. He’s yet to make a senior appearance but has been training with the first team for a while and is highly-regarded by the coaching staff. There might be a place for him in the squad.
Q – Finally can you give me a possible formation and line-up for Tuesday’s game?
A – Bruce is going to use his squad over the Christmas period but his options will be limited because some players remain unavailable after testing positive for coronavirus. I would still expect to see a pretty strong side, though.
I am not sure who will play in goal – Karl Darlow has been in fantastic form in the Premier League but Mark Gillespie has featured in the cup, and if Martin Dubravka is fit again, he might be considered for selection.
Newcastle’s system will change depending on who they are playing but I think they will start with a back four in this game.
At the other end of the pitch, Dwight Gayle has returned from injury and will probably be in line to start. Andy Carroll, who has more recently been used as a substitute, may also feature.
HOW TO FOLLOW THE GAME
The match is being played behind closed doors at the Brentford Community Stadium at the early time of 5.30pm on Tuesday and is being shown live on Sky. It will not be shown live on iFollow or the Carabao Cup website, but if you don’t have Sky, you can buy a Now TV pass to watch it.
Live audio commentary is available on iFollow with Mark Burridge, Marcus Bean and Mick Cabble with a match pass available to buy for £2.50. There is also live commentary on BBC London Digital with Phil Parry, on BBC Radio 5 live and on TalkSport 2.