One step forward, two steps back at Newcastle United.
For a long while now this seems to be the way our progress has been going. We strike lucky on a good player, or fall into some tactics that work and then Bam! We come unstuck when players are sold, injured or the coach changes things for some unknown reason and we freefall to a level below where we even started.
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With the woeful season finally behind us and the dust settling, we can start to assess the future.All with the words of Mike Ashley’s ‘perfectly timed’ PR-laded pre-match interview ringing in our ears. Something has to give, something needs to change. If it doesn’t then not only will Ashley have ensured his credibility is at such a low ebb that it will never recover, but we will be staring firmly at a relegation battle from the outset, something the club and fans do not deserve. So what needs to be addressed?
Manager (Head Coach):
Carver has proven to many fans, that he is simply just not up to the task of being a Premier League manager/head coach. But is the hotly tipped alternative in Steve McClaren any better?
His record isn’t the best and he’s failed at Derby (although I guess much of his departure revolved around him hedging his bets about going to NUFC and Derby being not too happy). I’m fairly sure that most fans saw the Vieira story as a non-starter and in all honesty a bit of a gamble for Newcastle anyway.
So what do we need? More than anything, we need someone NOW! We ideally want someone with a good track record of developing both youth and senior players into more than when they started. Someone who can get the best out of what they have available, someone who will play good football and someone who can revamp the coaching set-up from top to bottom.
But mostly we just need them here while the window is open. With the large sums spent these days I have no problems with Ashley wanting someone to veto manager decisions, but they still need to be involved. If a manager asks for a central defender and you give him an attacking winger, then you immediately undermine his ability to do the job.
We the fans have been promised so much and delivered so little. While some bargain players have turned out to be superstars in their own right, they’ve been all too quickly sold on without adequate replacements. We also have too many players who didn’t work out, stuck on long contracts who are essentially dead-wood. Players like Obertan need to be moved on if possible and better hard working players brought in.
The big problem is we simply won’t match the wages or fees being offered by other clubs that we should easily be able to compete with financially. When a Man City come in then you accept you can’t hope to match their offer, but Swansea? West Brom? Crystal Palace?
We need to sort out the balance of the team in my opinion.
We lack any sort of crossing ability.
No set-piece specialist.
No top quality header of the ball.
No organising presence in defence.
No quarterback midfield general.
And our squad depth is appalling, too few squad players able to contribute anything other than just taking a squad number up, using up wages that could be spent on better players.
Do we loan out to improve or just to get off the wage bill? Lack of improvement or loaning to sufficiently high clubs is a worrying trend. I’m also fine with us bringing in loan players, but not at the expense of permanent signings, and certainly not as favours to agents or current players, as seems to be the case with Ferreyra.
One of my biggest problems, and not a short-term fix, is the lack of apparent progress through the squads.
Say what you like about fitness levels or lack of skill among the youth team graduates, I see no reason why they look so clueless when asked to play.
The whole club is one unit and the lack of continuity between one level and the next is a real problem. I don’t care about winning the FA Youth Cup, or some weird U-18 tournament.
What I care about is the players coming through and being able to come into the first team and know the tactics, the style of play, the way they are expected to fit in and be comfortable in doing so. Obviously this depends on the coaching staff actually knowing what they are trying to achieve in the first place…the jury is certainly still out on that one.
Basically, Ashley has set the expectations with his interview. He’s told us he knows he is to blame, he says he wants to improve the situation. Right now those are hollow words, heard too often through PR statements but never followed through on.
This summer he can finally start to make the changes to push the club forward, get the fans back on side, show he is learning from mistakes made and wanting to put things right.
We don’t expect a huge bankrolling of players and extortionate wages. We just want to see progress, for us to seemingly be trying to improve. But yet another summer of signings failing to get over the line, or joining other clubs because we won’t pay the wages or fee, will do nothing to convince fans to put their heart and soul back on the line for the club.
Ashley has the club at a dangerous crossroads, where it goes from here is entirely up to him. Time for him to deliver a football club worthy of the fan,s who showed exactly what they can be in the final game of the season.
Who will get behind their club, their players and cause, even if only given something to hold onto and shown they are an important part of things here at NUFC.
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