It is seven years ago this week since Mike Ashley made the bewildering decision to install Dennis Wise as Newcastle United’s executive director of football above the recently-returned Kevin Keegan.

At the time, then Chairman Chris Mort claimed that Wise’s appointment was; “part of the vision that recently helped us to secure Kevin Keegan’s return to the club as manager.”

newcastle unitedWhich left supporters baffled as Keegan went on record as saying he was not totally clear about what Wise’s role would actually be; “in all honesty I do not know enough about it. You are going to have to ask Chris Mort.”

Mort felt that with Wise assisting in the day-to-day running of the club at boardroom level, it would free Keegan up to; “Devote his efforts to developing and running the first team squad.”

All well and good in theory but it was clearly not a structure that Keegan was comfortable with and the cracks started to appear almost immediately – Mort making way for Derek Llambias that summer, Keegan leaving his post by mid-September and Wise also heading for the exit door the following spring.

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Since then Wise’s duties have been ably performed by the shrewd Graham Carr (who was ‘assisted’ by the woefully inept Joe Kinnear for a brief period at the start of last season), while the manager’s job has become a more refined role with reduced responsibility and input at boardroom level.

Alan Pardew’s defection to Crystal Palace at the turn of the year has seen Newcastle formally abandon the traditional role of ‘manager’ and embark on a quest for what they have termed a ‘head coach’ – the very role that Mort described seven years previously.

It may well fly in the face of the traditional structure in British football but the likes of Swansea and Southampton have recently shown that it can work. Joined-up thinking and a clearly-defined strategy on and off the pitch can pave the way for success and stability – while also working to ensure that any managerial changes can be made with limited upheaval.

Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins worked at boardroom level to ensure the club’s finances were in order but he also made a conscious decision to appoint a series of managers who shared cored beliefs and that paved the way for progress on the pitch as well as off it.

It was Brendan Rodgers who led Swansea to promotion back in 2011 but his success owed a lot to the solid foundations laid by his predecessors, Roberto Martínez and Paolo Sousa, who implemented a continental passing system and helped improve the players’ technique and tactical intelligence. Rodgers’ move to Liverpool didn’t halt the Swans progress as Jenkins replaced him with a manager who believed in similar principles in Michael Laudrup and he led the Welsh side to the League Cup in 2013 before being jettisoned in favour of Gary Monk.

Newcastle’s problem is that, while they may have all their ducks in a row in terms of the club’s finances, they are still searching for an identity on the pitch. Managing Director Lee Charnley outlined his vision for the new head coach in an interview with the Evening Chronicle last week, saying that the new man’s job will be to; “Coach the players and implement and oversee a philosophy that goes through the first team, the reserves and down through the Academy to improve the players and to ensure we get the best out of them.”

John Carver’s appointment as head coach until the end of this season at least provides continuity and stability on the training pitch but the problem is that he has never really shown himself to be a particularly talented coach or astute tactician.

newcastle unitedTime will tell whether he can coax more from the players at his disposal than Alan Pardew could but his performance to date doesn’t inspire confidence. Newcastle won one game from seven last season when Carver took the reins following Pardew’s suspension for his Hull headbutt and failed to even score in five of those outings, while he has overseen a meek FA Cup exit and won just one point from a possible nine in the league so far this time around.

With the transfer window still open and 16 league games left to play, it’s obvious that this season still has some way yet to go but trying telling that to Newcastle fans.

Bookmakers are currently offering 33/1 for Newcastle to be relegated and 80/1 to finish in the top 6, reinforcing the notion that Newcastle are a club in limbo. In theory they are ideally situated to press on and finally build on the off-the-field success that Mike Ashley has brought to the club and yet at the same time they are just another poor appointment away from flirting with another ignominious demotion to the Championship.

So, Carver’s appointment leaves the Toon Army holding their breath, willing the season to end, eager to see who will take the reins this summer. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a genuine desire to finally hire the right man for the job. Then again, maybe not. It’s the hope that kills you.

  • Fozzyworld

    Great article!

  • magpie9

    The only hope I have is that Ashley leaves very quickly

  • Brownale69

    50 years of hoping…………..i dont think ill see football like the KK jaunt, the excitement the tension and neutrals saying we were the entertainers………..proud to be  a Geordie!!!

  • Nicolaus Copernicus

    Excellent article. Well done.

  • vbhgft

    Brownale69 Yes, and the shattered hope – from that era more than any. I am still traumatised from those two late Blackburn goals, even now. 1995-96 was the most painful season watching NUFC, ever. I just want all memory of it to go away, but it never will.

  • toon tony

    There’s no hope left, the FCB has taken it all away. All the years hoping to see us play at Wembley in a cup final, came true in 98 and 99. The hope that one day going abroad to watch us play, yes did that. What’s left now, the hope of not just being financially safe but profitable? or the hope of finishing 10th.

  • radgiegadgie

    I think the next 3 games will be a good indication of what is in store.

    Last year was of course different.  Pardew was still calling the shots and this also coincided with Cabaye leaving.

    He has now had a few games, a few weeks including a trip to Dubai, good players coming back and the job until the end of the season.  With 3 decent fixtures ahead, there can be no excuses (bar Sissoko or others sold on Monday).

  • cwtoon88

    thats why people wont cancel, even though the way the club are run its more likely than not Carver gets the job fulltime and we dont bring in anyone new and we stick with the clueless negative tripe. Its the hope that despite experience it will suddenly come out smelling of roses.

  • Nicolaus Copernicus

    vbhgft Brownale69 
    Ah yes, that terrible night in April ’96, when Graham Fenton did us in with those two late goals. We watched the match in the Monkseaton Ams and ended up in  the old Sands club in Whitley, above the bus station, where we supped in solemn silence for the best part of an hour and a half. Such a dreadful night.

    But, unlike you vbhgft, I have no desire whatsoever to have that season’s memories expunged from my brain. To paraphrase the great Jazz musician, Dave Koz, we could have missed the pain but we’d also have to miss the dance – and what a dance it was that season. Yes, it all ended in great sobbing tears, but the joys of Ginola, Sir Les, Beardo, and everyone else, made the whole journey worthwhile.

  • KevinChristie

    Nicolaus Copernicus Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it.

  • KevinChristie

    Fozzyworld Thanks. Glad to be of service! ;-)

  • vbhgft

    Nicolaus Copernicus vbhgft Brownale69 You see, that’s the problem. It’s this supposed mentality our fans were said to have had that we were happy to lose 4-3 as long as we attacked all out and entertained. I have always thought that to be a myth but reading your comments I’m not so sure!

    1995-96 was not a great “dance” a great “journey”. It was the road to hell. 

    The pain got worse and worse. That 12 point lead eked away, week after week, as Man United scored seemingly endless injury time goals and we blew it those nights at West Ham, Liverpool and Blackburn.

    For me it was a nightmare. One that keeps re-occurring.

    My God, we could and SHOULD have won the league. We really Should. Even Copernicus could have seen that!

  • jarra lad

    Nicolaus Copernicus vbhgft Brownale69  I too wouldn’t have missed the 95/96 season for the world – the excitement, the entertainment, the pride. It was the most enjoyable time of over 50 years of watching Newcastle. Okay, it was disappointing to lose out at the death, but I’d far rather watch that Keegan side finishing second than see that awful Daglish side win it!

  • Nicolaus Copernicus

    vbhgft Nicolaus Copernicus Brownale69 
    My heart goes out to you, mate, it really does. Time is a great healer and, though it took me forever, you can see that I have been able to come to terms with what happened in the closing months of that season and find positivity in it all. You clearly aren’t there yet, and I respect your grief. Hopefully one day you’ll come to see that, whilst the girl may have broken your heart, you’ll always have the memory of your dance with her.  H’way the Lads.

  • Sickandtiredstill

    Nicolaus Copernicus vbhgft Brownale69 Save your breath trying to console that Troll, mate.

    This is what he thinks of everyone else (posted on another page) –

    “The sooner football is gentrified away from the braying, reeking hoi polloi the better. The future is people such as myself and others of a like mind.”

  • Nicolaus Copernicus

    Sickandtiredstill Nicolaus Copernicus vbhgft Brownale69
    Well, that may go a long way to explaining why it was that the girl dumped him … :-)

  • Sickandtiredstill

    Nicolaus Copernicus Sickandtiredstill vbhgft Brownale69 Indeed. We need to shame these trolls off these boards.