Steve Bruce will attempt to lead Newcastle into the FA Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 2006 insisting he would have taken the club’s current situation back in August.
The Magpies have not scored in six hours of Premier League football and have collected just two of the last 12 points on offer to slip to within five of the relegation zone with 10 games remaining.
However, head coach Bruce is convinced they can progress in the cup and secure their top-flight status as they continue to fight on two fronts.
As he prepared his team for Tuesday night’s fifth-round trip to Sky Bet Championship leaders West Brom, he said: “We’ve had a difficult run and there’s no denying that, but we’ve still given ourselves a wonderful opportunity.
“We’ve got to 32 points with 10 games to spare. If somebody had told me back in August that would have been the case, I’d have said ‘Thank you very much, I’ll take that’.
“Of course we need to go and win a couple of games. We have some big games coming up, we’ve got five of them at home where our form has been very, very good. We’ve got something like 21 points at home, so it’s all to play for.
“Yes, everybody is looking over their shoulder a little bit, of course, but that’s the nature of the Premier League and that’s how difficult it is.”
Newcastle are six-time FA Cup winners but have not lifted the famous trophy since 1955, and the competition has become something of a secondary consideration during the Mike Ashley era.
However, Bruce – then a schoolboy – remembers only too well their surge to the final in 1974 when they beat the Baggies 3-0 at the Hawthorns at the same stage of the competition, and is determined to take the club as far as he can this time around.
He said: “We’ve got to the fifth round for the first time in years. It’s going to be a big challenge.
“There’s a big parity, so I’ve been told, with 1974. We played West Brom in 1974 and went there and won two or three-nil, so who knows? I always believe a cup run can give everybody a lift.
“We’ve got good opponents, a really good team, so it’s all to play for.”
Bruce has a doubt over winger Allan Saint-Maximin, who has complained of a sore hamstring and back in recent days, but wing-back Valentino Lazaro is available after suspension.