Boro gave Newcastle a shock says Barnes

Former England and Newcastle midfielder John Barnes recalls the shock Boro gave the Magpies in 98

FORMER Newcastle United star John Barnes recalled the shock he and his Toon teammates got when they visited Broadhall Way in 1998.

Barnes played 69 minutes of the original tie when Boro came so close to recording one of the cup’s biggest upsets and the former England international says the Magpies were shocked at how good Boro were.

“It was a shock because I’d never played a non-league team in Round Three of the cup when I was at Liverpool or even Watford,” recalled Barnes.

“We were expected to go there and win, not so much the first game, the second game because after the draw – and we were fortunate to draw – we thought we’d get them back to St James’ Park and hammer them which we didn’t.”

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Barnes admits Newcastle underestimated how good Paul Fairclough’s side were back in 1998 but says that’s no longer the case with Boro now playing full-time in League 2 and the 47-year-old believes they have a good chance of causing an upset if they can start Saturday’s game brightly.

“We won but of course it was very tight,” explained Barnes.

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“It was the shock of the quality. That was the first time it really dawned on me the quality of non-league opposition. That was ‘98 so now, 13 years later, I’m now aware of how high the quality is down there.

“You expect non-league players not to be as good as they were but now it’s different. They are not non-league players, they are full-time, and as Graham (Westley) says they’ve got good experience, players who have played in the Premier League so they have better quality. So, if they can start well, and be well organised and play with a good tempo then they can cause an upset. Obviously Newcastle will be favourites but anything can happen.”

Boro boss Westley was at St James’ Park on Wednesday evening to watch the Magpies hammer West Ham United 5-0 and, while Barnes admits Alan Pardew’s side will go into the tie in confident mood, he says you shouldn’t rule out the romance of the Cup taking over.

He said: “It’s a one-off and as Graham says unfortunately for him he went and watched Newcastle against West Ham and they played really well so Newcastle will be full of confidence going into that game. But nevertheless, the traditions of the Third Round springing up results and upsets has to give Stevenage hope.

Barnes added: “You would expect the Premier League side to dominate, however from what I’ve seen in Round Two where you saw albeit League One or League Two teams playing non-league teams the gulf has been minimal. In many respects the performance doesn’t matter because in cup competitions it is the result that matters not the performance.

“Graham’s a very, very good manager, he’s got his team well organised. They’ve got good players, they’re better now than they were in 98. They’ve got league experience and I think now teams are better prepared because they are full-time so yes they’ve got a chance.”

* Stevenage v Newcastle United is live on ESPN this Saturday from 4.45pm

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