Whilst Newcastle United’s relegation battle has deepened significantly with the crushing defeat at Chelsea, the board have still shown no real signs that the plug is about to be pulled on Steve McClaren.
Our manager of eight months looks likely to see out the season, despite our position in the bottom three, along with dismal away form.
He remains 8/1 in the ‘sack race’ market with most bookmakers, generous odds considering he has spent the second most amount of money in the division, and has only won a frankly pathetic seven games in all competitions this season.
While the press occasionally run stories that the board are going to be contemplating his future, to me it looks more and more likely that McClaren will see out the season as long as it looks like we have a chance of staying up. This has highlighted the lack of ambition that still appears prevalent at NUFC, despite serious pounds being spent, we have once again suffered another desperate season.
I have no doubt that our diverse fanbase remains greatly divided over whether or not to sack McClaren. This may sound hard to believe – but you only need to look at the wide range of opinions on The Mag to know that debate on Newcastle United provokes all kinds of varied views.
If our current manager was shown the door, then there would be an equally wide range of opinions on who should be next flung into the hotseat. That’s the nature of the beast, 52,000 different opinions on Barrack Street alone.
Whilst our away form, as everyone knows, has being frankly pathetic, recently we have seen an improvement at St James Park. A spirited performance in the draw against Manchester United followed up with back-to-back home wins against West Ham and West Brom, in both games United could and should have being won with a bigger margin.
In those games I noticed a pretty decent atmosphere around the ground, in the main it seems SJP has not turned completely on Steve McClaren yet. Once Gini scored the first against Man Utd the noise levels grew and in the second half, the place was rocking.
It’s difficult to gauge, but overall, I think the ground feels more positive than under Carver during the horrors of last season. Certainly the noise level at home games is much better than this time a year ago.
I remember one particularly awful game against Stoke, under ‘JC’, with support to the team virtually non-existent and rightly so. That has not been the case recently.
A bright opening against West Brom was rewarded with a really strong vocal backing and I genuinely believe this kind of support does give players that extra 10% on the pitch.
The perfect example is the side currently top of the Premier League, winning plaudits up and down the land, Leicester City. Last season they looked dead and buried in January but thanks to a siege mentality created by the slightly on-edge Nigel Pearson and bought into by the fans, excellent home form was the cornerstone of their ‘Great Escape’, taking 16 points out of the 21 available from March onwards.
The fans were absolutely key. I hate the phrase ‘12th Man’, after all a supporter is still not capable of sticking the ball in the net, but sometimes they can do pretty much everything else.
I am not suggesting the powers that be start handing out those plastic clappers before each home game, not my cup of tea really, but as long as support remains strong, who really cares what methods are used? Of course reintroducing the ‘singing section’ would help the situation.
Although our position is not quite as desperate as The Foxes was at this point twelve months ago, we will probably need something similar to those sixteen points (from eighteen), to achieve survival, assuming of course our record on the road remains dire.
This is why St James Park must remain a fortress for these remaining three months of the season. Whether fans want ‘Mac’ out or not, the continued support to the players so far I think has being impressive, and must continue. It could make all the difference.
If seven or nine points can be taken from the upcoming games at SJP against Bournemouth, the Mackems and Swansea, then our picture will (should) look much healthier.
Relegation battles, as we know all too well, come down to the finest of margins. We may have had to endure another season of depressing football, but this does not mean the drop at the end of it.
Who knows, you only have to look at Leicester to show how winning a battle to avoid relegation can sometimes galvanise the team.
If fan differences and owner contempt can be put aside for just a few months, it may be the difference. Remember, Newcastle…. United…. will never be defeated!
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