Bruce desperate to dodge defeat on date with Dale

Steve Bruce does not want a giant-killing by “bloody Rochdale” on his CV as he attempts to end Newcastle’s miserable recent FA Cup record.

The six-time winners have not lifted the famous trophy since 1955 and last reached the final in 1999, and they have not even made it to the fifth round since 2006.

They were famously dumped out of the competition by non-league Hereford in 1972 and more recently have lost to Stevenage and Oxford, and that is a litany to which head coach Bruce is determined not to add another verse despite the injury crisis which has engulfed the club.

He said: “No one wants to lose to bloody Rochdale, that’s for sure. However, the FA Cup is the FA Cup and that’s the beauty of it, we’ve seen it over the years.

“Newcastle, in recent years, have not gone far enough, so we’ll try our best. I don’t want to be that (the manager who loses to Rochdale). Why should I be?”

Newcastle fan Bruce was an 11-year-old schoolboy the day Southern League outfit Hereford stunned the Magpies by winning a third-round replay 2-1 with extra-time goals from Ronnie Radford and Ricky George after Malcolm Macdonald had put the visitors ahead, and was disappointed once again when his team reached the 1974 final against Liverpool.

He said: “The disappointment was the final when we got battered by Liverpool. I couldn’t get a ticket. I was at home watching it with the black and white bunting down the windows.

“It was the only live game on the TV, so we had the whole build-up – and then got battered.”

Bruce would, however, get his hands on the trophy as a Manchester United player, famously lifting it as captain of the double-winning side in 1994.

He said: “It’s the best day of your life, be it as a manager, player or supporter.”

Newcastle head for the Crown Oil Arena with a drastically depleted squad after a costly festive programme which is likely to rob them of 10 players including five of their six central defenders.

That may come as music to the ears of Dale’s 40-year-old striker Aaron Wilbraham, although Bruce, who celebrated his 59th birthday on New Year’s Eve, joked that he might come up with a radical solution to his selection problem.

He said: “They’ve got a 40-year-old striker, but maybe we’ll have a 60-year-old centre-half and I’ll play!”

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