Paul Dummett and Conor Newton

Newcastle pair Paul Dummett and Conor Newton have been close friends since they first joined the Magpies' Academy as nine-year-olds and have both progressed through the ranks, into the Reserve set-up and onto the very fringes of the first-team squad.
This season, they've been on loan with Scottish Premier League side St. Mirren and Sunday will see the Paisley side take on Hearts in the Scottish League Cup final at Hampden Park, the national stadium.
It will be another special experience for the Geordie duo - both 21 - and in the flat they share on the outskirts of Glasgow, they spoke to DAN KING ahead of the Buddies' big day...

Sunday's final is not far away now - are you ready for it?

Conor Newton: As ready as I'll ever be, I think. I'm quite early into my St. Mirren career but I'm ready for it, definitely.

Paul Dummett: Everybody's looking forward to it. We've been to St. Andrews for a couple of days preparing for it; we were meant to be playing golf but the weather was too bad. But we still had a laugh when we were there, a bit of team bonding, and I think everyone's raring to go now.

What was the reason for Danny Lennon (the Buddies' manager) and former Newcastle player Tommy Craig (assistant manager) taking you away in the days before the game?  

PD: I think it was just to get everyone together because you don't spend loads of time together when you're at the training ground and stuff - you just train and then you're home. So it was good to spend a bit of time together and have a little bit of a laugh, just to keep everyone ticking over until the final actually comes.
It was a shame we couldn't play golf but there was a games room there so there was darts, poker competitions and we just chilled out as well as training there.
The game's on a Sunday so we've had different days off to usual and it's been different being away with the lads because that doesn't happen on a normal week. It's been different and now we can't wait for the final. 

CN: It's good to get a change of scenery and it's a lovely place so it was fun and the lads had a bit of banter. It was a bit disappointing that we couldn't get on the golf course but you accept that.
I play now and again, but only in the summer - I don't play in the winter much - but it would have been nice to get out there and have a game of golf.
Having a couple of days away doesn't necessarily chill you out; it does to an extent but you kind of get your head on it as well so you're mentally prepared. You know what you're there for.

Conor Newton celebrates a pre-season goal against Gateshead

It's been almost 26 years since St. Mirren last won a trophy and the club sold its full allocation of tickets and requested more. Do the players sense just how much this game means to the supporters and the area as a whole?

PD: We've been doing signing sessions and there have been fans there from different generations, so all the players know it would mean the world to them if we win this game.
They haven't won a final for such a long time so I think it would mean a lot for Paisley, because it's only a little town, to win the final. Twenty-six years is a long time so for us to win this trophy would be unbelievable.
Personally, to be 21 and play in a League Cup final would be brilliant and I can't wait to play if selected and try and win the game. It would be fantastic to have a winners' medal at the end of the day.

CN: You get random tweets from the fans and the likes of Tommo (striker Steven Thompson), who's a Paisley lad, will let everyone know what it means to the fans.
It's a massive game and as well as not winning anything for 26 years, I know they've never won this cup so it would be great to bring it home.
We'll be playing in front of maybe 40,000 people at Hampden Park - it doesn't get much bigger than that.

When you joined St. Mirren - Paul initially in August and Conor in January - did you ever expect to be preparing to play in a cup final a few months later?

CN: No, definitely not. If you went to me last year 'you're going to be on loan in Scotland with Paul Dummett playing in a final in front of 40,000 people,' I'd have laughed at you.
I played at Hampden in the semi-final so maybe that makes it a little bit easier but it's still going to be exciting and nerve-wracking, all of those things.
You do notice the surroundings for the first 20 minutes but once you get your head on the game you block it out. But Hampden is a big pitch and it's a long way from the fans to the pitch which makes it seem a lot bigger.
There's nobody on top of you which makes it seem massive, but I think that'll suit us because we'll get the ball down and play some nice stuff on the big pitch. And all those fans will help us too - I think they've sold 17,000 tickets so all those people shouting for you is obviously going to fire you up.

PD: I didn't expect anything like this to happen - I was just going there to play league games and whatever else happened would be a bonus.
I played in other rounds - the quarter-finals against Aberdeen and the round before that as well, against Hamilton, but then I missed out on the Celtic game (in the semi-final) when I was back at Newcastle.
Hampden Park is the Scottish equivalent of Wembley so if I play in the final that will be amazing. Hearts have a good team so it's going to be a hard game. Some people have said they are struggling but in a final anything can happen and they have an experienced team so it'll be a hard game.

You two have known each other for more than 11 years - will doing this together make it even more special?

CN: Definitely. I've played with Paul since I was nine years old - he's probably the only person I've played with from that age - so who better to do it with?

PD: We've played together for years and years at Newcastle but I don't think we ever thought we'd be playing in a cup final for the same team and trying to win a major medal so early in our careers. It would be special with anyone but I think with him, it will be extra special.
We've lived together since we've been here and we know each other well so it would be amazing if we could win this trophy. We're both Newcastle boys and we've got a lot of friends and family coming up to watch the game so to win the game for the St. Mirren fans would just be unbelievable.

Paul Dummett

Now that you're living together, how are you finding it? Any annoying habits you've noticed?

CN: How long have you got? He's the noisiest eater you've ever heard in your life. He doesn't like any food: he doesn't like seafood, he doesn't like steak, he doesn't like anything so he's a nightmare to cook for.
But to be fair, apart from that he's not too bad most of the time.

PD: Conor's proper messy. He'd probably say the same about me as well but he never cleans up after himself.
Whenever we go shopping, he always takes ages to choose what he wants but I suppose he's okay really.

Conor, this time last year you were just on your way back from a serious knee injury. Having gone through those hard times, does that make this all the sweeter?  

A year ago I'd have been sidelined for nine months so if you'd have told me then I'd be playing up here, fit for so long and in a cup final, I'd never have believed you. It's a dream come true.
There were times last year when I had a sit down and had a serious think about whether I'd need to find something else and you wonder 'am I going to get back from this?'. But - touch wood - hopefully I'm alright now.

And, cup final aside, how have your respective loan spells at St. Mirren Park been going?

CN: It's been brilliant. I think I've started the last ten games so I must be catching the eye of someone if I'm starting all those games.
I'm just trying to play well and trying to win games, and hopefully people will keep on saying good things.
I've set a couple of goals up but I'm still waiting for that first goal. I don't tend to get forward that much but to get a goal would be lovely. It would be nice on Sunday to get one, put it that way.

PD: I really enjoyed it first time around, I did well when I was here and that obviously prompted them to try and sign me again for the second time. And the second time's going just as well.
I've only not played one game since I've been here so hopefully that continues and I miss no more games. And hopefully I'm selected for the final because we don't know the team at the moment.

There are still plenty of Scottish Premier League fixtures left after the final, so how important is it not to allow the big game to distract you from the rest of the campaign?

PD: Obviously the final's a massive thing to play in but the main priority is to secure top flight status for next year. When you start off a league campaign, you always say that you want to do well in the league and you don't think about the cups until you start having a good run in it.
We'll be trying to win the cup on Sunday but for the remainder of the season we need to try and push hard to finish as high as we can because I think where we are now is not an acceptable position.

Finally, even though it's not for Newcastle, does the thought of wearing black and white stripes in a major final add something to the occasion?

CN: Yeah, I think it does. When you're younger you always dream of playing in the black and white of Newcastle but I think you take this every day of the week. As a young lad, playing in a cup final, it may not be the black and white of Newcastle but I'll be proud to wear the black and white of St. Mirren.

Main photograph courtesy of Allan Picken Photography