Steve Bruce is hoping the FA Cup can lift the “doom and gloom” surrounding Newcastle as they approach crunch-point in a testing season.
The Magpies have won just one of their last 10 Premier League games and sit only five points clear of the relegation zone, but they head for West Brom on Tuesday evening looking for a place in the quarter-finals for the first time since 2006.
Head coach Bruce is well aware of the negativity outside the club but is convinced the season could yet turn out to be a success.
Asked what it would mean to him to take his home-town club to the last eight, he replied: “Not just for me, but for everybody. Let’s have something to look forward to rather than doom and gloom. Let’s embrace it.
“All the big ‘uns are still there, though – is it Chelsea v Liverpool? And in the other cup, Manchester City have dominated over the years. But even a big club like Villa go and enjoy a cup final. It’s a big competition, so let’s try. Why not?”
Bruce has fielded a strong side throughout the competition, in stark contrast to some of his predecessors, who were under strict instructions from above to prioritise the league.
French winger Allan Saint-Maximin is a doubt with a sore hamstring and back, while Javier Manquillo, Jonjo Shelvey and Dwight Gayle will be assessed after starting Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Burnley after lengthy absences through injury.
However, while Bruce agrees that top-flight status must remain the main focus, he insists the FA Cup can also be a target particularly for a club which does not rely upon and has to protect one or two star men.
He said: “I fully agree that we have to prioritise the league, 100 per cent. But what is the problem with having a squad of players? We have got 20-odd players, so they can play in an FA Cup tie.
“Also, have we got somebody that precious to us, somebody that precious to us that we can’t do without?
“We’ve got six or eight big players, of course, but we haven’t got an absolute talisman, have we? If we had an out-and-out goalscorer, then of course you would put him in cotton wool. But we have what we have.”