There seems an element of relative calm at St James’ Park at the moment.
Despite having no permanent manager and Mike Ashley at the helm still, it’s reasonably quiet.
Of course there’s been the Rangers hat debacle but on the pitch things remain relatively positive with new man John Carver so far unbeaten since his position was confirmed.
But after a month in charge, is Ashley’s gamble going to pay off? Or is it a bluff just waiting to be called?
We all know the Sports Direct man loves a gamble – after all he won £1.3million on a roulette spin back in 2008 – but whether his latest spin will reap the rewards, it’s a little too early to tell.
Of course Carver has experience managing Newcastle boss as caretaker already, taking over from Sir Bobby Robson temporarily after the legend was sacked back in 2004, although the game has changed plenty since then.
Today the game is like a game of chess, better still poker, with managers having to show the same calm, collective, and ruthless traits. No stone must be left unturned, especially in the Premier League where any weakness can be severely punished.
Carver has been out of the managerial hot seat for five years now, and taking care of everything could be a tough task to handle.
Like a top poker pro prepared to cash in, to start picking up points – which so far he has; dispatching of Hull, and earning points from Stoke, Burnley and Crystal Palace – he must train his brain to identify weaknesses in both his side and his opposition, which will improve his decision making, and cause a whole lot of problems for the team he’s lining up against.
And that shouldn’t be an issue, particularly for a man who is Newcastle through and through. He started his career there as a YTS, before later returning as Sir Bobby’s assistant.
He’s worked with this current side since 2011, and at an integral part of the season saves a new manager getting to know the ins and outs of everyday life at St James’, which could be seen as a wise move from Mike Ashley, albeit hardly inspired.
So far his hand has yet to really be revealed as to whether he’s the man holding the aces or not. His record stands at six points from a possible 18, and defeat in the FA Cup, although that has included tough ties against league leaders Chelsea and Champions League chasing Southampton.
The side have slipped into 11th, and with the club desperate to finish top 10, he’ll need to send his side out full of confidence ahead of some tough fixtures in the next month. First up is a trip to Champions Manchester City who have some catching up to do on the leaders, games against Manchester United, Everton, and Arsenal all follow, and Carver will have to instill a lot of belief in players if they are going to avoid slipping further down the table.
For most of this season the Magpies have found themselves on the winners table, tactically Pardew has got it right, and Carver will have played a huge part in that.
So far the players have been impressed with Carver, putting plenty of strategy into the way they play on the pitch. Goalkeeper Tim Krul has been full of praise for the 50-year-old.
“It’s going well. We have very clear plans which is good. If you don’t do your job you won’t play under John and everyone knows that.”
He added, “It has been a little bit different. He’s putting a job on every single position and everyone knows what they have to do, in my opinion it is coming off.”
Obviously deciding whether it has come off or not will be determined by their position in mid-May, but it appears that at least on the pitch the players are happy with the way Mike Ashley has dealt his cards.
Off it though, well that’s a different matter. Whilst of course everyone in the Toon wishes Carver well and is fully behind him, there is a belief that it’s simply a cop out for the unpopular chairman, not dealing the fans a good hand but in fact keeping the chip stack all to himself.
Which meant not having to spend in January. Not a single player walking through the door, despite a desperate need for some experience in the squad. Should the likes of Remi Garde, Cristophe Galtier, or Frank de Boer have been brought in then they would have expected some money on the table for them to refresh the squad and address that, not to mention putting their own stamp on the club. That didn’t happen with the only money being pumped anywhere heading in the direction of Ibrox.
Despite that, appointing John Carver could be a gamble worth taking, especially if the club’s main aim is Frank de Boer who is likely to be open to a move away from Ajax come the end of the season. He has huge pedigree both as a player and manager, winning the Eredivisie for the past four seasons, as well as assisting Bert van Marwijk to the World Cup Final with the Netherlands.
The rumour mill will no doubt run wild over the next few months as Carver quietly goes about his business, attempting to tactically mastermind his way into the full-time role. Pardew has backed him to do it, and he’s odds on favourite with the bookies.
The former Newcastle gaffer believes he has the qualities of other Premier League managers, and if he does show the credentials of the new breed of managers like Mourinho, Pochettino, and Koeman who can quite easily be comparable to that of a poker player, displaying traits of confidence, unpredictability, and an eye for weakness, then calling who will be in charge this time next season is almost as difficult as beating someone who’s holding a royal flush.