After a weekend in which Newcastle lost again to Leicester, Carver has made headlines by accusing one of his players of being deliberately sent off.
The problems at St James’ Park run deep but is this only a recent thing?
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Supporters who were recently divided seem to be uniting once again. This time, it is in expressing disgust at performances on the field. Some will point the finger at Carver, with rumours suggesting that he will be replaced by McClaren with 3 games to go. More on McClaren later but how did it ever come to this?
Some will point to Pardew being allowed to move on at New Year. Sure enough, at the time, Newcastle had 75% more points than the team in the last relegation place, Crystal Palace. It may have seemed safe to let him go. The fact is, the writing was already on the wall. A 6 game (5 in PL) winning streak had disguised a lead up that included only 5 wins in 25.
Pardew himself was a manager who had a history. Some will see his record as being something of a `flash in the pan’; a promotion with Reading before stagnation, a fortunate promotion with West Ham followed by an FA Cup final, then sacked when in a relegation position. He was also sacked when taking Charlton down, as well as at Southampton.
Yes, Pardew’s flash in the pan seems to have been lit at Palace but it will be remembered that with two exceptions, each manager who succeeded him did better, Coppell taking Reading to the Premier League, Curbishley bringing West Ham survival, Adkins taking Southampton up two divisions. The exceptions have been his assistants, Parkinson at Charlton and now Carver at St James’ Park.
It isn’t unusual to see Newcastle’s form dip in the 2nd half of a season. It happened last season, the sale of Cabaye being cited by many as the reason. Cabaye’s sale is indicative of a philosophy, supported by the January sales of Carroll, Ba, Santon and Mbiwa. There is an undercurrent at the club.
Mike Ashley’s retail chain philosophy, seems to be reflected in his transfer policy, make a margin and sell your stock at speed. Not for him expensive quality strikers, more those who are lower priced and come with a risk. He has bulked up on core stock with a surfeit of midfielders but lacks cover in defence, and as was apparent before Christmas, goalkeepers. Costs are kept low.
His retail philosophy, as demonstrated on Channel 4’s Dispatches, has now become apparent through Carver, naming and shaming players who have not performed. The buck should always stop at the top. Zero hours contracts are reflected in lower wage bills than industry standards.
Evidence of this comes from the latest accounts. Certainly, there are a few high paid players on the wage bill but that bill has grown more slowly than other more ambitious teams with less history.
We can also look at directors’ pay, Llambias having been paid a salary of £177,000. By Premier League standards that is low. Llambias himself had a background in casinos, not in football. Charnley appears to be paid less and, to the outsider at least, seems to have done little to justify his role.
Managerial appointments have also been cheap, Keegan aside; Joe Kinnear, Chris Hughton, Pardew and Carver. The one of those did achieve, Chris Hughton, was a more democratic manager with principles and diplomacy. He was sacked.
So where should we look for an answer?
We could look at the squad and yes it needs investment. As Pardew used to say “we can’t compete with the big clubs”, losing out to several whose wealth is currently well below that attributed to Newcastle United. The core of the squad is surprisingly similar to the season in which we finished 5th. Others have invested more significantly.
We can also look at the managerial situation. Steve McClaren is widely touted as being the Next Newcastle manager but is he the answer?
On one level, he has some pedigree. He was an international manager. He, along with Redknapp, is the only current English manager to win a domestic trophy in this country. He won a league title abroad with Twente in Holland.
On closer scrutiny, like Pardew, his performance has not been consistent. England supporters will remember him as the `Wally with the brolly’, crashing out of Euro 2008 qualification. Disappointing at Wolfsburg, his 2nd spell at Twente, Forest and now Derby, the flash in the pan has withered. On form, with 2 wins in his last 14, he is only marginally better than Carver (2 wins in 16) who also gained his Pro License on the same 2004 course.
No, the answers go much higher, to where the buck should stop. Ashley needs to invest, whether the shorter term future is in the Premier League or the Championship. That starts with the top of the club, in a football man who is better qualified than Charnley and who can bring quality, rather than shop soiled seconds into the squad.
A new manager has to bring a quality of football that reflects the history of the club and desire of supporters. Ideally, he will be an achiever elsewhere; a Klopp, a Garde, a Simeone.
On past form, potential managers can look at how supportive other clubs have been, including for the likes of young talent like Eddie Howe who would have no reason to even consider coming here.
There are others from overseas who may be tempted, if only by being part of the Premier League.
So we come to a conclusion, things at Newcastle United have to change from the top. That may mean Ashley selling but there is too much profit potential for him to get the sort of price that would make him budge.
His philosophy has to change if he is to protect his obscene Premier League earnings. He has to invest some of that potential to gain a return, both in passion of supporters and financially.
The simple message to Ashley is change or go.