Football: Sir John hopes to end `blip' with Cup

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The Independent Online
THE Newcastle chairman, Sir John Hall, is hoping to banish the memory of a season he describes as "a blip".

The Magpies have been in the news for all the wrong reasons this season, culminating in the resignations of Sir John's son, Douglas, as chairman and Freddie Shepherd following sleaze allegations.

However, after narrowly avoiding relegation, Sir John is buoyant going into today's FA Cup final against Arsenal at Wembley and confident his team can upset the form book. "I'm very excited and very nervous," he said. "The FA Cup has tremendous history and tradition. We had a great time in the '50s and there's no reason why it can't happen again.

"Forget about the season. We look at the season in retrospect and say it was just a blip on the gradual progression of the club. We are a great club and we've a tremendous future.

"You always have to be optimistic and you've always got to achieve excellence, but you have to do even better than that, which is what we try to do at Newcastle.

"Arsenal have played some super stuff and you've got to say well done to them. The bookies quite rightly make them hot favourites because we've struggled this season.

"But I've watched our team recently and there's a tremendous team spirit, and now the pressure is off from relegation. We've managed to fight back and you should never ignore Newcastle."

Sir John is demanding the team give the Toon Army what they deserve and end on a high after a season to forget at St James' Park.

"It's a day for the fans and players, not directors and chairman," he added. "The team know they are on show and they've got to do well, and I'm sure they will.

"But the great thing about this club is that we have a tremendously loyal support. I hope they get their reward and that we win the cup, the team brings it back and we parade it around the streets."

Sir John, meanwhile, is refusing to speculate on his future after being forced to step back into the breach to take over from his son and steer the club through a crisis. "I want to get the cup final out of the way, relax a little bit and then review the situation after that," he said.