The likelihood of a club operating below English football’s top tier being able to seriously dream of multiple honours in the one season is rare.
Newcastle United though, are no ordinary Championship side.
— Mark Douglas (@MsiDouglas) September 17, 2016
The St James’ Park club are a giant of the game, with a fanbase that dwarfs their league rivals and a playing squad that is the main reason behind them being tagged as hot favourites for the division and promotion back to the Premier League.
In Rafael Benitez, they also have a manager with a record to make them the envy of clubs both home and abroad.
After a shaky start the Spaniard’s men sit third in the Championship table after eight games, despite a shock home loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday.
The north east side have already made amends for that slip by beating Wolves in the second meeting between the two sides in four days, the EFL Cup third round on Tuesday night.
The result puts the Magpies into the last 16 of the competition and Benitez has every cause to be optimistic the club can go far. Newcastle’s recent record in cups is terrible but the fourth round draw has handed them a very winnable-looking home fixture against Championship strugglers Preston North End.
The draw also paired Manchester’s big two, United and City, while giving Tottenham a tough looking trip to Anfield and sending Chelsea away to West Ham.
Despite the favourable luck of the balls, it will still take more than one upset for Newcastle to make it to a final but top flight teams will not be as free to focus on the competition.
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) September 21, 2016
While the Toon Army must view promotion to the Premier League as top priority this season, they can still look to the League Cup as a back door route to silverware. In Benitez too, they have a man with exceptional cup know-how and pedigree.
The 56-year-old won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005 and also led the Anfield side to FA Cup glory during his tenure.
He has lifted the Europa League with two different clubs in two different countries as well as winning domestic cups in Italy.
If anyone can mastermind a shock this season in England’s secondary cup competition, then Benitez is that man.