Steven McClaren’s first statement of intent might have appeared deceptively simple but it could put Newcastle United back in the fast lane.
The simple act of introducing the ball straight into pre season training sessions, with the intention of coaching how to retain and use it, doesn’t sound revolutionary does it?
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But to McClaren’s (and my own) bemusement it apparently is compared to the Pardew era.
It’s a damning indictment on the previous regime and a sentiment that harks back to the dark days. Of bygone times when players were forced to train without the ball to make them more hungry for it come match day but consequently weren’t much cop with it when they got it.
It looked like McClaren’s appointment had been a foregone conclusion ever since Pardew’s departure. And I like most of you were less than thrilled by the prospect, especially when there were many more exciting (but unrealistic) names apparently throwing their hat into the ring
Images of a Wally with a brolly, his recent failure to guide Derby into the Championship play-offs and last but not least the daft Dutch accent phase.
Initially after his inevitable appointment, it seemed an even more bitter pill to swallow after Ashley’s vow of silence had been broken with promises of repentance.
Patrick Vieira it seemed was ready to sweep into town and with the chains of restraint thrown off, a new era ushered in.
Of course that bubble was burst quickly and McClaren was duly appointed … meet the new boss same as the old boss.
Or is he?
I have warmed to Steve McClaren, he been making all the right noises since his arrival. He is by all accounts an extremely good coach with not only domestic but international and European experience. He has shown an obvious affinity for the area and desire for the job.
If nothing else he’s capable of putting out a team that is well organised and able to knock the ball around. Hardly dizzying stuff but on the scraps we’ve had to live off, a massive leap in the right direction.
The signing of Georginio Wijnaldum is another reason to warm to McClaren. Would it have been possible to have lured a player like Wijnaldum to St James’ under (especially the latter part of) Pardew’s reign?
Although it would be possibly unfair to lay the majority of blame at Pardew’s door for that one and more to the stagnant war of attrition Ashley was waging on the club.
Wijnaldum looks a class act and the real deal, with not only his footballing ability but also his attitude, and again like McClaren genuinely seems delighted to be here.
If Newcastle can sign at least another three of Wijnaldum’s calibre, a striker and preferably two centre halves, then we’ll have a solid spine and an impressive base from which to build upon.
There seems to be a policy and direction to the club again. Talk of a strategy for the next successive transfer windows. Whether this is to evaporate in the mirage of another ‘five year plan’ we’ll have to see.
There’s the big ‘if’, that the plan of course doesn’t involve flogging off our better players. It would be nice to think that Wijnaldum isn’t simply a swap for Sissoko. Although it would at least show some foresight for once.
I would include Cisse in that category too, as even half-fit his goals, as McClaren rightly pointed out, kept us in the division. If he can stay fit and score as often as he reputedly does off the pitch, then we’ll be in business.
Cheick Tiote has become the invisible man and his sale would be unnoticed, though like Cisse a rejuvenated Tiote would be a real asset.
Who knows, under McClaren’s guidance maybe Tiote can shine again. There are a whole host of fringe players that can hopefully blossom again.
Shane Ferguson, Bigi, Good and Abeid all have the potential for at least being valuable squad players. Armstrong and Aarons have the ability to kick on to the next level.
I would have thought Vuckic too was worth another chance as his loan spell at Rangers proved his fitness if nothing else, but it appears he is to be discarded.
It will be interesting to see what developments McClaren and his background team can get out of the likes of these players. Likewise the difference the new physio and fitness team can do to our notorious injury list.
The backroom staff was also in dire need of being swept out. In Ian Cathro we have got a young coach of real promise. Despite his age he has a wealth of experience and is the creator of the Box Soccer Training programme (check the website if interested).
Steve Black’s formidable presence should also pay off. Steve, a local lad is renowned as a ‘fitness guru’ and one of the best motivational speakers in Europe. How we could have done with his qualities last season?
Newcastle United are in transition mode, possibly emerging from the era of the mercenary French foreign legion to the brink of total Dutch football.
A fanciful thought but with a few more decent signings through the door hopefully more than just a dream.
It will be enjoyable to see the ball spread around the turf of St James’ Park again and not just by the opposition.
No quick fixes have been promised but a new culture and ethos appears to be emerging.
Maybe Steve McClaren does have the formula for success?