Former Claret Nick Pope thrilled to break his final duck after leading Newcastle to Carabao Cup final at Wembley
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The 30-year-old England goalkeeper had never reached a final as a professional before doing so with Tuesday night’s victory over Southampton, with a League Two play-off semi-final defeat while on loan at York during the 2013-14 campaign the closest he had previously come.
Indeed, his experience of cup football had been less than enjoyable until the run which has left the Magpies just one game away from ending a wait for silverware which dates back to the 1969 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.
Pope said: “My experience of finals is zilch. I lost a play-off semi-final with York, not much else is in there.
“I have had a couple of abysmal cup runs, so I’m looking forward to this one.”
Newcastle’s lack of recent success is well-documented – they have not lifted a major domestic trophy since the 1955 FA Cup and their last final appearance came in the same competition in 1999.
But bolstered by the spending power of their Saudi-backed owners and the guidance of head coach Eddie Howe and his staff, they have given themselves every chance of ending an agonising wait within weeks.
It was perhaps fitting that their latest trip to English football’s headquarters was secured not by one of the men drafted in at great expense since Amanda Staveley’s consortium took control at St James’ Park in October 2021, but by academy graduate Sean Longstaff.
Longstaff’s first-half double ensured a 2-1 second leg win on Tyneside and a 3-1 aggregate victory on a night when he was joined on the pitch by fellow locals Dan Burn and Elliot Anderson, with Paul Dummett sitting on the bench.
Pope said: “We have a few Geordies in the squad, so it doesn’t go unnoticed. This is more than a football club, this place.
"You are representing the city and it is something we have taken on really well.
"It is something I am proud to be part of.”
Bruno Guimaraes’ late red card for a challenge on substitute Sam Edozie – the Brazilian will be suspended for the Premier League games against West Ham, Bournemouth and Liverpool.
He will be available for the final – was a disappointment, as was record signing Alexander Isak’s premature departure with suspected concussion.
Pope – is likely to be led out at Wembley by captain, former Claret Kieran Trippier – had earlier suffered a personal blow when his remarkable run without conceding a goal was ended after 931 minutes of football by Che Adams’ stunning 29th-minute strike.
He said: “It was a shame, but massive credit. Damn, Che Adams, that was a great strike.
"The run was unbelievable, but you are very level-headed, it’s not going to last forever.”