Realistic expectations and 89% of Newcastle fans
One of the things that used to irritate me, was listening to pundits and members of the southern written press talking about the expectations of Newcastle fans.
The mantra was that players and managers found it very difficult at SJP due to the expectations of fans, suggesting we were totally unrealistic in our aspirations for the club. We had our place in the football food chain but suffered from delusions of grandeur.
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If you were from outside of Newcastle, the Toon Army were a set of fans who expected to be challenging every year for titles and cups with some marquee signings thrown in.
Not having won a domestic trophy for 60 years, the very opposite was true. OK, the KK era did raise expectations but by and large most Toon fans just wanted to watch decent football with a team of players giving 100 per cent, with a passion to match the fans.
To paraphrase the banner, fans did not demand winners, just triers.
The Ashley era has had a big impact on expectations. Apart from one notable season, the expectations of fans were gradually lowered to where they were like a Sports direct contract, i.e. zero.
Ashley sucked the joy out of supporting the team and also drained it of its mass appeal to such an extent, that many of the neutral fans who previously had a soft spot for the club wanted us relegated in May.
We became an embarrassment to a league that prides itself on being the most exciting and unpredictable. We became a bland football club run by accountants and bean counters.
Add to this Pardew’s constant complaints that we could not compete with other Premier league clubs, not only lowered expectations but created mass apathy. The only plus point of this for me was that the words ‘unrealistic expectations’ vanished from the vocabulary of critics as the rest of the country came to realise how the club was being run.
In his interview, Ashley said he would ‘continue to invest’, which some took as a sign that he intended to plough more money into transfers.
Some accepted the interview at face value but many cynics suggested that it was a ploy to bring dissenters on board and sell season tickets.
However, the recent signings of Wijnaldum, Mitrovic and the impending one of Mbemba, have given fans something they have not had for a long time, hope. All signings are welcome and these players were excellent in the Dutch and Belgian leagues, though in the position we are in I would have preferred proven Premier League performers, scarce and difficult to find I know.
It seems the club is sticking to its policy of buying young foreign talent, no doubt hoping to sell on for a profit if they progress. The new signings are definitely a step up but they are still relatively cheap, compared to domestic buys, and from the club’s point of view if one comes good then you can sell him and cover your expenditure.
However, you might not necessarily see good football or build a squad for the future that way.
For me, too many overseas players have been thrown in at the deep end at St James Park, put straight in the first team after arriving, rather than being given time to gradually adapt to the Premier League. I suppose that is what comes from having a small squad.
However, these signings appear to have had a profound effect on the expectations of Newcastle fans, with a recent poll in the local paper suggesting 89 per cent expected this season to be a success under McClaren.
New faces always please fans, and a good PR man like McClaren also helps get the fans on board, but is this a realistic expectation and what would constitute success?
Things had to be more positive as the morale of players and fans were rock bottom last season. The signings look promising but I believe we need at least three more good players if we are to aim for the top half of the league. More if we sell.
You can’t go from a relegation battle to the club’s target of top 8 and a cup run without massive change, especially when the teams above us have all strengthened too. The club will be expecting McClaren to improve the existing players and whilst it’s looking better it still needs much more.
There are also reports that they club are trying to sell players. We do need a clear out, many are not fit to wear the shirt, but not without replacing those departures.
To me the new players were just topping up a weak, depleted squad. We need defenders. None of the existing centre halves are good enough. Lascelles might come good but I feel we need someone to partner the new boy.
However, whilst Coloccini looks to have lost the heart to play for the club and has been poor for the last couple of years, to sell him without another centre half coming in would be reckless.
It also seems that a lot of supporters want rid of Papiss Cissé. It looks like the club is keen to sell him but have not received a suitable offer. Considering there was a serious lack of proper service from midfield last season, Cissé did well to score 11 goals in 22 games. Those goals kept us in the League.
I agree his disciplinary record is poor for a striker (the spitting was shocking), he hasn’t had an injury free season and he has also just turned 30 years of age.
Also, Aleksandar Mitrovic looks nailed on to lead our attack for the coming season, but it’s squad game, a long hard season and if no other strikers are signed we will be relying on one young player to see us through.
He is a natural goal scorer and with Georginio Wijnaldum and Siem de Jong ready to provide the bullets for him to fire, I think it would be a mistake to sell the Senegalese striker without bringing in another striker first.
There are also rumours of Sissoko leaving and whilst he has not fulfilled his early promise, to sell him without a ready-made replacement for the squad would be another mistake.
We are now at a crucial stage for the coming season at NUFC and the next few weeks will decide where we will finish. The new players are welcome and have given us hope and raised expectations.
However, if we stick with what we have and then sell, it is unrealistic to achieve the clubs targets and it could be another season of struggle. With the right investment in the coming weeks, however, it could be a season where the 89 percent have every reason to be optimistic.
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