Carabao Cup final: Newcastle United's Eddie Howe hails city's 'truly incredible' passion and support for team

It's been 68 years since Newcastle United tasted glory in a major cup competition.

Since their triumph in the 1955 FA Cup, life in this country and the city has dramatically changed, but one thing has endured - the love so many local people have for the team. A passion that is at fever pitch as the side take on Manchester United in the Carabao Cup Final today.

The sense of anticipation in the city was not lost on their head coach, Eddie Howe, who spoke to Sky News at a media day held at the club's training facility earlier in the week.

"From the people that I meet around the city and any interactions I have with supporters, whether that's 6 o'clock in the morning outside the training ground or when I'm leaving," he said.

"The passion here and the support for their team is truly incredible.

"So, I think the players know the responsibilities that they have, to be the best."

The side today will be captained by England international Kieran Trippier, who has played 40 times for England, including in the 2020 European Cup Final at Wembley, where today's final will be held.

Despite his experience at the highest level, Trippier, 32, says playing in front of Newcastle's fanatical fanbase still amazes him.

"You don't even realise till you actually play for Newcastle, how passionate the fans are, how crazy the atmosphere is," he said, "even I sometimes get butterflies when we're walking out."

That fervour was on full display at The Back Page, a memorabilia shop a short walk away from the club's St James's Park Stadium.

There, the shelves are lined with trinkets from the club's past, from vintage shirts to old match day programmes and scarves.

Even if they've been nearly men for nearly seven decades, Newcastle United has a rich history - a fact the television screens in the shop remind you of, as they play highlights on repeat.

This Wednesday, it was packed with fans looking for more memorabilia to add to their collection before the final.

'Newcastle United is in our blood here'

Anas Hassan, who regularly travels from his home in Fife, Scotland to Tyneside to see the team play, said he was feeling "warm in the heart", about the club's recent run of good form.

"Knowing there's a unity here, people are behind the team and want them to win their first major English Trophy since 1955. I think obviously, the excitement levels are going up," added Hassan, who said he'd be in Newcastle for the celebrations next week if they can win the cup today.

Meanwhile Stephen Cook, who works at the shop, put it simply: "Newcastle United is in our blood here, it matters so much."

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The context around Newcastle United's success this season, challenging for a top four finish in the Premier League which would mean qualification for next season's Champions League, hasn't come without controversy though.

Last year the club was taken over by a consortium including Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) - a process that saw questions raised about alleged human rights abuses linked to the Saudi Arabian regime.

The debate around that will continue, but the shop window displays and lines of fans waiting for a glimpse of the players on the way to the training ground this week are reminders that the ties between the club and the community are longstanding and strong.

'Everyone wants them to win'

In the city centre, you could sense the excitement among people of all ages.

An elderly woman said: "It's fabulous what it does for the city, everybody wants them to win, there's a buzz about the place, which is always good."

A young mother summed up the love a place renowned for its grit has for the beautiful game: "Now we've got a team that's come back soaring, the magic's back.

"So, what does Newcastle as a team mean to Newcastle as a place? It's magic."