Well, that escalated quickly.
I’m writing this before the match with Sheffield Wednesday, but I get the feeling that the outcome of that game will not change the mood a great deal. The contrast with the last round of this cup versus Northampton is as depressing as it is remarkable.
(ED: Before you read on – Jamie did send this over BEFORE Wednesday night’s match…)
I remember walking out of St James after the victory over the Cobblers feeling pretty damn good as it happens.
Despite a poor showing at Swansea, United had acquitted themselves pretty well in their other games, with a promising performance only yielding a point against Southampton and a backs to the wall show gaining a draw at Old Trafford.
The professional demolition of Northampton suggested that this could be the real Newcastle this year. Sure, it was league two opposition, but replicating the slick performance in the Premier League would be enough to beat many top flight sides. Add in the renewed vigour towards cup competitions and there were genuine thoughts (and probably conversations) about going all the way to Wembley, increased 24 hours later by another home tie against lower league opposition.
What a difference a month makes.
On current evidence, it turns out the Swansea debacle was this season’s actual Newcastle and the positives seem to have been more false dawns.
Three straight Premier League defeats with no attacking impetus and no evident game plan have seen mood levels slink back down towards last season’s misery. The way a near full strength Man City side demolished the mackems suggests that winning the league cup when up against this kind of interest was never going to happen, and I’m pretty sure people wouldn’t be keen to back our chances on current form regardless.
Of course, that’s provided Sheffield Wednesday haven’t done for us by the time anyone reads this. The fact that this will come as no surprise is probably evident of how far south the atmosphere has gone. The question is, why have things reverted to being so very terrible.
The coaching team were always going to be up against it if this happened. McClaren’s failure at Derby meant his credentials as a top flight boss were seriously in question.
In their defence, it is still early and they have clearly inherited some bad ‘uns. I wonder how much of a factor the Charlie Austin saga has been in all this. Suddenly, does £15 million look like such a bad option if it bought the attacking capability to keep you in the Premier League?
For me, the way that Austin has kept his head down and got on with his job in the meantime, never once suggesting refusing to play or courting potential suitors via a mouthy agent, is a cast iron testament that this is a bloke that would be excellent to have in your squad.
I wonder how many sides from the top end of the table will have realised this come January, leading to an offer to join something more appealing than a relegation battle.
Back to McClaren, there are already areas that people are questioning, including negative formations and a lack of ideas to create opportunities. However, this is counter-balanced by certain players taking their deserved share of the flak. I don’t know precisely where the problem lies, but something is fundamentally wrong.
I haven’t even mentioned Ashley yet.
£50 million investment was a decent outlay, but obviously not nearly enough to counteract the damage of years of inactivity.
Steve McLaren would probably say that he was forced to keep some people who have had a negative impact, such as Cisse, whereas a more ambitious level of recruitment would have allowed the whole picture to be more to his liking.
Lee Charnley will doubtless point to his statement that this is a work in progress, but this will be met with cynicism until action is seen in the next window.
The simple fact is that we need to win games now. To become reactive as a crowd at this take would feed the media bullshit wagon, suggesting NUFC fans have no patience, we should never have got rid of Mr Smug Face 20 points in 2014 (none of this will be retracted when Palace succumb me to the inevitable Pardewing).
Anyone who has long since left the Ashley show behind will feel vindicated in their absence, those still there a bit lost as to what to even hope for anymore.
I hope we have beaten Sheffield Wednesday, not because I consider us in with a shout of the Capital One cup, but because we just need something to start feeling a bit better.
It can get better, can’t it?
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