Sometimes it’s hard to put into words just how disappointing watching Newcastle United can be…Saturday was one of those occasions for me.
I have been patient with the team so far this season, as have many others, but Saturday was one of the worst performances at SJP during the Mike Ashley era, which takes some doing.
No amount of emails from board members to fans can put right, or in any way justify, the absolute dross that was served up by the 11 in black and white.
In contrast to most of the national media (who as expected had a Jamie Vardy love-in), I thought Leicester were distinctly average, but able to look like world beaters compared with the team they were up against, I use the word ‘team’ very loosely.
Four players: Sissoko, Winajdum, Perez and Mitrovic, had for my money, their worst ever games in Toon shirts. The defence were probably even worse, with no protection after Tiote went off, they looked all over the shop.
The way in which we struggled to deal with the predictable game-plan of direct balls up to Vardy and Ulloa, shows a complete lack of planning and tactical acumen on McClaren’s part. He too has to take some of the blame for how awful the performance was.
We have had our fair share of bad luck this season; the injury to Tim Krul, the Coloccini red card in the derby and the tough opening run of fixtures at the start of the season. This had made me think that eventually we could pull clear of the relegation dogfight, once the luck turned, as it looked like it had at Bournemouth.
After Saturday’s disaster however, this now seems fanciful thinking. The most worrying trait of this team, which has carried over from last season, is its overt lack of character. Not something you want in a relegation scrap, which our season now seems destined to be.
Saturday’s game was a clear example. At 0-0 we were not playing particularly great, but were far from outplayed, and still very much in the game. Then after conceding an awful goal just before half-time, the team, almost collectively, decided that it was all over for another week.
Never can I recall a Newcastle team or any other in premier league history that folds like a pack of cards so often. It is now over a year since we won after conceding the first goal, that tells its own story.
Once Vardy had smashed The Foxes in front we never even looked like getting back into the match; no fight, hunger spirit or desire. Typical.
The high amount of three and four goal hammerings we take should be no surprise really, when considering just how spineless this current crop is.
Tim Krul often seems to be one of the bigger characters in the dressing room and with him out for the season, and Jack Colback currently injured, leaders within the team seem few and far between. How Colo kept that armband over the summer remains a mystery, considering he never seems to have two good performances back-to-back.
The lack of belief and fight exhibited on Saturday raises the question of just what the so-called ‘motivational guru’ Steve Black is doing at the club. I’m not sure what he said to the players after plodding onto the pitch at 16:55, but whatever it was, I doubt it was much help at that point. Maybe he asked Coloccini if he was capable of shouting at teammates.
Whilst the team undoubtedly has ability going forward, defensive reinforcements in January are an absolute must if we are to get out of this mess, Mbemba can’t do it all on his own can he?
They don’t have to be British, I don’t get that argument, just a willingness to run, fight, and not give up, would be a start.
This might be the most crucial point in McClaren’s short tenure at NUFC – whether he can convince the board to invest in January if relegation looks a likely possibility, as it did in 2013.
Certainly, performances would surely have to improve between now and then just to keep ‘Mac’ in the dugout, I can’t see too many more performances similar to Leicester being tolerated. At the very least this motivational rugby coach might be given his P45.
Mike Ashley claimed before the West Ham game last season, that he wanted to change and that ‘from this day forward we will be making our own luck’.
Change simply cannot happen without the right people involved. At the moment it is hard to argue that Newcastle United have got the right people in any area of the club.
Even those who want to make the case for McClaren as manager, might be struggling in a few weeks time.
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