If you look at the betting market for who’s going to be our next boss, there’s little to choose between Patrick Vieira and Steve McClaren at the time of writing.
Both of these men are nice enough guys and are probably capable managers – though there are complications on both counts with the latter party of the statement. But one shows ambition whilst the other is to settle for mediocrity – and most fans would prefer to roll the dice with Vieira even if that is the slightly more risky strategy.
But first let’s have a quick look at the record of Steve McClaren. In short his record at Middlesbrough was patchy and mediocre – and the same can be said for his spell as England boss. The anomaly is FC Twente where he enjoyed notable success. This was followed by a miserable spell at German club Wolfsburg, then a brief and notably unsuccessful period at Nottingham Forest, a kind of “OK” second period at FC Twente, and the same again at a disappointed Derby.
His record is a strange one. If left to manage he can do OK at times – but notably not at others and our fans aren’t the most patient in the world.
So to the other main candidate, Vieira – as yet untested other than his job as reserve team coach and Elite Development squad manager at Manchester City. This, of course, is no real test of Premier League leadership and he may want to try his hand in a big hot seat like the one at St James’ Park. If he does take the job, you can safely bet that our odds of being relegated from the league in next year’s Premier League betting will be quickly cut from their current 5-1 in the relegation betting. Patrick Vieira had a reputation as a tough and uncompromising but still supremely skilful player at his peak – and he will expect that style to be repeated by any team he coaches.
At the same time, he hasn’t been tested and football history is littered with the stories of great players who have moved on to be exceedingly disappointing managers. The two sets of skills required are the “same but different”. This explains why some great players go on to be great managers but most don’t.
Nevertheless, the appointment of Vieira to the job would be a bold move by the club and if there’s one thing Toon supporters appreciate it’s the willingness to have a go. The experience of Sam Allardyce, in particular, at St James’ Park demonstrated just how much our fans long to see open and attacking football. Had Allardyce stayed at Newcastle, you can be sure we’d be firmly ensconced in mid to upper table in the same way West Ham United have demonstrated this season. But none of us want that. Instead, we want to see a man at the helm who at least tries to be big and bold and attacking in the style of play he dictates. This is why Kevin Keegan was so loved. And, to be fair, we probably won’t get that with McClaren. But with Vieira, we just might. And the chance to have a real go at shooting for the top is what the fans want. We’d rather see bold ambition followed by failure – than absolute mediocrity. And Vieira would bring with him that welcome whiff of possibility.