A Monday night fixture for us back in India is actually a Tuesday ‘wee hours’ fixture.
Still, yours truly could never give such an important game a miss, despite the dreaded thoughts of a drowsy work day ahead.
So, at 2:30 in the morning (night), I finally switched the TV off and tried to bury my frustrated head into the pillow.
After struggling for hours to get the horrors of Upton Park out of my mind, when I finally dozed off, that was when I found myself as a fly on the wall…
NUFC staff room | Tuesday 15 September 10:00 | Emergency meeting
SMC (Steve McClaren): Guys… just got off the phone with LC (Lee Charnley) and he wants us to do an RCA (oh, that’s Root-Cause Analysis).
Bottom of the table, Sunderland above, 2 points out of 15, no goals scored for a month. The whole lot! MA’s got the board call an emergency meeting on Thursday, so we better get started.
SB (Steve Black): (walks in hurriedly, huffing and puffing) The dressing room’s a mess, gaffer. Got a couple of calls from the guys, you got to talk to them first.
SMC: The entire place is a mess (throws a marker at the whiteboard). Why do you think I stalled for so long? Can you rebuild it overnight, in one window? Not that I got a great bunch to start with.
I told them to let these ACON guys go this window. One doesn’t turn up for the meetings, even Big Al said he couldn’t see him in the match too. I am tired of lying on behalf of the other, why he didn’t come to the US, why didn’t come for training, why he didn’t come to London?! SB, get him in for a chat today, will you?
IC (Ian Cathro): Yeah they don’t listen to me too. That day in training when I asked Moussa to try playing on the left and get Florian on the right, he bullied the kid so hard, you could hardly find him that day on the pitch. Still low on confidence! If only I had learnt French too… (makes the baby face)
SMC: Not now, Ian. We will discuss the marauder later. Let’s start guys. Anita for M-to-M marking, whose idea was that again? Paul?
I am done with this “fulcrum-between-center-halves” idea. Even with the two defensive midfielders option. We have got to look at that again, Paul. Even that loser JC taunted us for the Anita tactic!
PS (Paul Simpson): Agreed, Steve. But Payet’s strike was too good, just that Daryl goofed up the clearance, and…
SMC: Payet? I told Carr to get that guy, he got me Flo! Meh! Anyways, what’s it with Daryl? The Dutch are all but out of the Euros, so we need to get him in a good head space. Talk to him, Black. And no more of your wingback strategy, Ian. Neither of your wingbacks cross, or can cross! Daryl gets too selfish, always looks to cuts in, then takes a rash shot or a bad pass, and the right wing is left open. Or else pulls someone down and walks…
We have got to settle this side first, so get the back 4 stick to their positions. I want to see people doing their jobs well first, ‘total football’ will come later!
PS: But Colo is not doing a great deal either… I told you not to give him the armband, the team looks lost most of the time at the back. Tim was complaining the other day. Stevie did well in the Man U game, why not get a 3-man central defence, with two wingbacks? Ian can still run his wing attack that ways.
SMC: Later! I want the so-called big boys doing the business up front. No more support from the back, no more conceding goals Paul. And Colo’s decision is not on me, you know that Paul. Anyways, get me a clean sheet next game, I will try and get the goals. Where are we with Sylvain and Rivi, Sandro?
AS (Alesssandro Shoenmaker): Marv can target Oct 1st week for training, gaff. Manu needs time. Not before December, I guess. But you are spoilt for options in midfield anyways, boss.
SMC: I have tried all the midfield options. Ian told me to get Gabby some game time (looks sarcastically at Ian) ….
IC: Well he made that goal first week and then you put him on the left….
SMC: You tell me. You heard Sissoko when he said he doesn’t want to play left or center, he wants the right wing. But I have had enough of his tantrums. He is sitting out the next one. Agree, Paul?
PS: Just the point I was gonna make. Get Flo on the right as Ian said on Friday, Rolando or Ayo on the left….
SMC: Ayo is going up top, Ian can you lay out the formation on the white board? I want ideas here with two upfront strikers, though I do not like it. But nobody can cross from dead balls here, forget open play. So my striker is all alone, looking even more a criminal without the supply than he is with the ball at his feet. While Ian works on the crossing and dead ball situations, I want two up top. Sandro says Siem is fit now, finally (pouts), so he starts.
AS: But Gini is not! He is damn tired with all the running, without the ball. You better make him sit out the next. Gabby is running fast again… (Inquisitive look around the table)
IC: Ok. Let’s look it this way – 4-1-2-1-2. The usual back 4, Jack base of the midfield diamond, Florian and Aarons on the wings, Wijn as the attacking mid, with Ayo and Siem up top! Boss?
SMC: Makes sense. Let’s try this. Just when I thought the defence looks settled after Old Trafford and the Arsenal game, my midfield collapses and leaks possession. How did we concede the second goal again? I mean I didn’t even finish my coffee upstairs and you get counter-attacked!
What is the use of having 60% possession and 500 passes, when you have Janmaat hitting the only shots on target in the entire match? I want a full one-hour briefing with the team before Wednesday’s training, to get their spirits up and right before Saturday. (SMC’s phone beeps) What the hell, man! The board meeting is now tomorrow, I gotta rush home. PS can you mail me the minutes, and I want this formation worked out by tonight, Ian.
IC – Can we try Gabby on the right, and Florian on the left, boss? I still think he will do better.
SMC – Send me the storyboards. We will discuss Wednesday at training. Cheers, guys (takes out his brolly and walks out).
Me – Well they haven’t lost it all…yet. They need time, let’s see how it turns out on Saturday. I need to get up………
Rishiraj Lahiri (Now from New Delhi after having just moved 1,336 miles from Bangalore)
If not for the wonderful Black-and-white and Alan Shearer, I would have never got stuck with Newcastle. But then I fell in love at first sight, and the affair continues…. long distance….And one day, I will be there at SJP and I will cheer you on lads…
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