MARTIN DUBRAVKA earned a Carabao Cup winner’s medal with Manchester United last season despite hoping they lost the final.
Newcastle’s Slovakian keeper, 34, played two games in the competition while on loan at Old Trafford.
But his January recall to the Magpies meant that even with Toon No 1 Nick Pope suspended as both clubs reached the final, Dubravka was cup-tied and had to watch the Wembley clash from the stands as the Red Devils won 2-0.
But with Pope crocked thanks to a shoulder injury this time around, Dubravka is eyeing up another medal — this time with Newcastle.
But there is a long way to go and tonight Chelsea stand in their way at Stamford Bridge in what promises to be a belter of a quarter-final.
Dubravka said: “It would mean more with Newcastle, it would be absolutely fantastic.
“The final last season was the strangest game because I wanted Newcastle to win.
“Everyone was asking me who I’m going to support, and I always said I always support Newcastle.
“It was 5½ years as opposed to five months so you can’t compare.
“I wanted Newcastle to win for the city because the fans are just waiting for something special.
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“It was a strange situation, I didn’t want to be in it. I have the medal at home but it’s not on display.”
Dubravka received his medal from Red Devils chiefs when they visited St James’ Park five weeks later and again sat out — this time on the bench — as his employers won 2-0.
While he has had to bide his time to get back in the Toon side, the potential to become a hero and help the Tyneside club land a first major domestic trophy since 1955 is within his grasp.
And it would be some redemption for Dubravka, who went from fan favourite for bailing them out time and again under Mike Ashley’s ownership to outcast for agreeing to leave for Old Trafford.
Some supporters were furious that he favoured a couple of games at Old Trafford as a cup goalie over fighting for his spot at St James’ Park.
And Dubravka added: “It was very stressful. I received so many messages from the fans.
“They were not happy I left but they were special circumstances and it’s in the past.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I came back but I’ve been here for nearly six years and I always said it feels like home.
“It’s a special place and it means everything to me.”
Tonight’s clash with Chelsea will be Dubravka’s fifth straight start since coming in for Pope following the England stopper’s dislocated shoulder.
And Dubravka said: “I was waiting for so long to get back in the team. I hope we can win it this season. We have a couple of injuries but there’s a possibility and you have to have the highest ambitions.”
Newcastle boss Eddie Howe celebrates his 100th game in charge with this last-eight tie in West London.
But he delivered a “same again” message to his troops amid a glut of injuries plus fatigue in his squad.
Howe, whose side crashed out of Europe last week, is desperate to mark the landmark game with the win which would put them into a two-leg semi-final from a return trip to Wembley.
The 46-year-old said: “We want this competition. We want the excitement of challenging for trophies.
“The dream didn’t turn to reality last season but maybe this year. This is where we want to be — not just now but in the future.”
On reaching 100 games, the manager added: “It’s absolutely flown by as life tends to when you get older.
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“I’ve loved every second of it, so many highlights, so many memories and I’m very proud to have been on that journey with this club.
“And if the players give me everything they’ve done in the first 100 games and continue to do that, I’ll take whatever comes.
“They have not disappointed for a second and I’m very proud to lead them.”
Newcastle have knocked out Manchester City and United on their way to the last eight.
But Howe, who can look forward to a hostile FA Cup third-round tie at Sunderland next month, has no regrets over the Geordies’ demanding schedule.
He said: “We’ve been thrust into the most difficult cup draws and it has really stretched us and taken us out of our comfort zone.
“The games we’ve played have been intense and there has been no let-up in terms of the quality. No part of me regrets that or thinks it’s a negative.
“It’s a positive because it’s forcing us to improve and to be the team we want to be in the long term. We have to be exposed to those games to get closer.”
Alexander Isak could be on the bench while there will be late calls on Fabian Schar and Joelinton, who were both withdrawn before half-time in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Fulham.
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