Newcastle have to make a big statement against Northampton Town tomorrow night - before a ball has even been kicked.
It may only be the second round of the League Cup against a mid-table League Two team, but it is arguably a game of huge importance to Steve McClaren.
For too long, Newcastle have paid cup competitions lip service. It’s common knowledge that the Magpies’ board decreed them as ‘non-priority’, ridiculously claiming that clubs of their ilk risked Premier League survival by chasing silverware.
Cash, not glory was the motto.
That all apparently changed in the summer with McClaren’s appointment. Suddenly, cups were back on the table, so to speak.
“This club has waited far too long to win a trophy, we owe it to the supporters to do everything we can to reward them with success,” said McClaren.
“I have already won trophies as a manager and a club the size of Newcastle should be winning cups and finishing in the top eight of the Premier League.”
McClaren has indeed won trophies, notably the same cup Newcastle begin their quest for tomorrow. In 2004, he guided Middlesbrough to the League Cup - still the only time they’ve won anything in their history.
How Newcastle fans would love a bit of that.
And so to tomorrow night. It will be McClaren’s first step on attempting to end Newcastle’s trophy drought - 46 years and counting since the 1969 Fairs Cup triumph.
It will be intriguing to see what team he starts with. If Newcastle truly are serious about winning trophies, they must start proving it to the fans but also the players.
It’s said that players should be focused on winning every game, and it’s true, but it’s human nature that if the club’s hierarchy are saying that they don’t care about winning the cups, there won’t be the same intensity or desire from those who take the field.
Forget that it’s ‘only’ Northampton. Pick a strong team and show you mean business from the outset.
By all means pick some fringe stars. Rolando Aarons needs a run-out and it could be the ideal game to start Cheik Tiote, Florian Thauvin and Siem de Jong.
McClaren shouldn’t make too many changes, however.
There’s no risk of burn-out this early in the campaign, especially with a fortnight’s break just around the corner, while some players still need to build their fitness up.
Don’t give it a load of cobblers against the Cobblers, Steve.