Honeymoon periods for managers on Barrack Road appear rare nowadays.
You would probably have to go back to Glenn Roeder for our last gaffer to enjoy a near perfect start at the back end of the 2005-06 season, even then that was only as caretaker.
Alan Pardew had a great first game in charge but then immediately felt the fans’ heat after the club sold Andy Carroll the following month. Basically, it appears new managers rarely get a trouble free start to life at SJP.
McClaren has hardly had the wedding let alone the honeymoon period, in part due to how dull an appointment many fans viewed him as and also the way our fixtures gave us a really tough start to the season.
I was still surprised though with the media frenzy that was whipped up around the club after our slow start to the season, which admittedly might not have completely finished yet. Yes, the results against Watford and West Ham in particular were obviously poor and deserved criticism, as did the League cup no show against Sheffield Wednesday. However, I cannot understand how some fans ever thought the quality of football was lower than it was at the back-end of last season.
Some of the performances under Carver were an utter disgrace and that seems to have being forgotten too quickly.
Right from the first match against Southampton, McClaren has clearly got the team trying to play a better style of football, with more emphasis on possession, and we have looked dangerous going forward in quite a few of our games.
If we can carry on our attacking play from Norwich straight into Sunday whilst tightening up at the back, we have a much better chance than any of the derby games from the last two seasons.
Whatever happens on Sunday, I think it is time to back McClaren and at least see where we are come the New Year, before people start wanting to change the manager.
He may not have been the most inspiring choice in the summer, but it was obvious whoever came in was going to need time to turn around a squad completely devoid of confidence.
If the worst does happen and the unwashed make it six in a row on Sunday, what would please me most is seeing the majority of the fanbase stay calm and the media not questioning the manager’s position. If this does happen, it will only intensify the pressure ahead of the Stoke game, and the feel good factor from last Sunday will disappear.
One player who I do think might be able to change the recent run of derby debacles is the man who hit four last weekend, Georginio Wijnaldum.
It would be fair to say the majority of fans were most excited to see Mitrovic in a black and white shirt – with his character and playing style that’s probably fair enough. For me though, right from the opening game, Wijnaldum has looked the stand out individual in our team.
As with most players coming from the Dutch league he will take time to adapt to English football physically, and that has shown in the first couple of months. His intelligent runs and athletic ability though, are something that we have missed at the club for a while now.
I would say with some confidence he looks like our best signing since Yohan Cabaye and right now I would probably rather have Wijnaldum.
Few players I can remember in a Toon shirt can run with the ball better than Gini, and although Sissoko also deserved the praise he received for the four assists, for me Wijnaldum is our most dangerous player right now. The amount of headers he has scored already for a 5 foot 9 midfielder, is almost ridiculous. I just hope he is not the next one Ashley and Charnley decide to cash in when the profit is there to be made.
The one thing this team needs probably more than anything on Sunday is character, a trait which was lacking to such an extent last season, it was in part the reason for our flirtation with relegation.
I think as poor a team as the Mackems are, they have had stronger character when the going gets tough in these games over the past couple of seasons. Hopefully now we have Mitrovic, Wijnaldum and a re-energised Moussa Sissoko , that is not the case on Sunday.
It would be nice to see players in black and white shirts putting in the big challenges and trying to bully the Sunderland players, rather than the other way around. Play like we did last Sunday and it could be time to end the nightmare streak.
If not then I still think Steve McClaren should be given more time to take us out of the mess we find ourselves in after such a tough opening run of games.
Let’s get behind the lads, the next month could be absolutely crucial.
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