If fortune - in the shape of Les Ferdinand's injury-time equaliser against Chelsea on Sunday - has already smiled on Newcastle's FA Cup ambitions then their manager, Kevin Keegan, will be demanding more than another visitation from lady luck when his side seeks their first semi-final appearance in 20 years against Arsenal at Highbury tomorrow.
The Gunners may have been outclassed by the Premiership leaders at St James' Park only last Tuesday, but Keegan believes that Newcastle's chances in the Coca-Cola Cup will be determined by "attitude", especially as Robert Lee, the midfielder at the heart of his side, is rated doubtful with a sore Achilles tendon.
"You never know what players will do," Keegan admitted. "It's a big game and the attitude we had in the second half against Chelsea would be fantastic at Highbury. I'd like to knock the ball around more and play a bit better. But when you are 1-0 down and chasing, a bit of panic gets in there. In the end I was quite pleased with the performance, but we'll need to step up when we play Arsenal."
The 1-0 win against the holders, Liverpool, at Anfield in November sent Newcastle into the quarter-finals for the first time since they lost to Manchester City in the 1976 League Cup final. Earlier this year there was disappointment at the same stage of the FA Cup when Newcastle went out to the eventual winners, Everton. "You sometimes let yourselves down at this game and sometimes it is on the biggest stages," Keegan said.
"Our 2-0 defeat at Manchester United during the holiday period was a prime example, but we've been to Liverpool this season in the Coca-Cola Cup and were fantastic."
The only previous meeting in the competition between the two sides came in the 1971/72 third round when John Radford (two), Ray Kennedy and George Graham scored the goals in Arsenal's 4-0 win. That was the season after Arsenal's double triumph, and Keegan is also on course for at least two trophies - and also to become the 10th man to have played in and managed championship-winning sides.
"We know we can beat Arsenal if we play well, but I expect them to perform better than against us in the league recently," he said.Reuse content