Alan Pardew’s delivery was clipped, his manner stern. A few days on from the gnawing disappointment of tossing away their early-season momentum against some tenacious visiting Tigers, he was not in the mood to indulge the selection hopes of Newcastle United’s younger players in the competition that gives them the biggest cause for selection optimism.
“I think the team I picked at Morecambe had a few more risks in it than I would take against Leeds, for sure,” he said.
It says it all that Paul Dummett, the break-out performer of a tempestuous black-and-white summer, will play against Brian McDermott’s Championship side tonight. The young left-back who supported United as a boy is no longer considered a “risk”. That is progress.
“I didn’t expect this, the plan was to go out on loan,” he admitted.
“I didn’t expect to be playing against Manchester City in the first game or to be involved in every Premier League game so far, which I have done. It’s been a bonus for me and it’s all down to hard work, really.
“Connor (Newton) went back to Scotland and I know that they wanted me to do that as well. There was other options in England to go to and there had been a little bit of talk about that but the manager was impressed in pre-season and decided to keep me here.
“That was really good for me and he’s kept me involved in every game so far here.” Dummett is getting used to life as part of the Newcastle United squad these days.
Friend Sammy Ameobi is waiting for him outside the small changing room this interview is conducted in and chides him gently for his answers.
The old Dummett might have taken the bait but these days he’s used to getting asked questions. Increasingly confident as both a player and a person, the left-back admits that his life has changed “completely” since the day he was called off the bench at the Etihad as Newcastle tried to plug the gap left by sent off Steven Taylor.
For a start he was rubbing shoulders with Gareth Bale last week (“an inspiraton – everything I want to be”) after a call-up to the Wales squad on his day off. There have been other changes.
He admits: “My life has changed massively. I would never have expected to play all these games and people are noticing me out in town now. It’s very different.
“My friends find it different because people might be coming up to talk to me in town, but I’m just a normal boy.
“I’m a normal lad from Newcastle really but this has been a massive change for me. It’s a bit weird but it’s something that you just have to deal with.
“The first time I got noticed was a couple of days after the Manchester City game when I’d gone to do a bit of shopping in town and someone noticed me.
“They were pointing at me. It’s something new but it’s nice.”
There are more serious issues afoot tonight, with Newcastle desperate to make progress in the Capital One Cup against a Leeds team looking to bounce back after a weekend reverse to Burnley.
With more than 6,000 fans making the short trip from West Yorkshire, it will be a “proper” Cup tie. It will also be a chance for some of the younger players Pardew does pick to put forward their case after a campaign where some of them appeared to go into reverse last year.
He said: “I think the younger players probably did get a bit of stick last season.
“There was a lot of games with the Europa League and they did get used by the manager.
“We got thrown in when maybe the manager might not have wanted to play such young teams, but this season is probably going to be a bit different. I think any young players that come in are probably coming in to a more settled side.
“Now it is up to us to show what we’re about and show that we’re good enough to Newcastle. We need to show that we’re good enough to play in the Premier League and we’re good enough to play for Newcastle United.
“We need to keep the fans on our side and show them that we can play.”
The mood at United’s Benton training base has been in stark contrast to Dummett’s own high spirits. Pardew admits he was “livid” after the careless Hull defeat and the message from the club now is clear: Leeds offers a chance to atone.
He said: “It’s a massive game for us as a club because we lost to Hull City on Saturday and we want to put that right.
“We haven’t won anything for years and as a local boy – a Geordie boy – I know how important it us for us to eventually go and win something. I know how important it is and I want to do the best for this club.
“If I’m chosen to play I’ll go out there and try my heart out. I want to show the fans how much this means to us.
“This is going to be a tough game. We saw from Morecambe how difficult things can be and Leeds are a much better side than Morecambe so we need to play our own game and not underestimate anyone.
“Leeds are a very good Championship side and will try and put us under pressure. We need to really pass the ball and take the pressure of ourselves.”