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Steve McClaren: Tactical Genius or Clueless Chancer?

6 years ago

I have to say that my heart sank when I heard Steve McClaren had eventually been confirmed as Newcastle United’s new manager/head coach/Ashley yes man.

The thing is though, just like signing a player who you never really rated, you just get on with it and hope that your preconceptions are going to be proved wrong.

We’ve been through it with any number of managers, including the twin forces of evil, Graeme Souness and Sam Allardyce.

None of us (normal people) wanted either of them and we were proved right, both of them a disaster for Newcastle United.

When the hapless Lee Charnley appointed John Carver and said that they were going to search the world for the best possible long-term choice, you knew it was never going to end well.

Especially when the globetrotting search ended up only thirty miles down the road at the door of a manager who had just been sacked by a club in the lower leagues.

Won the title at PSV, key role under Ferguson at Manchester United, got Middlesbrough to a European final…

I saw somebody who was bankrolled by Steve Gibson for five years and only managed one top half finish in the Premier League, the only one of his career.

Steve McClaren was sacked at Wolfsburg after just over six months, sacked by England after a disastrous 16 months, lasted 10 matches at Championship Nottingham Forest, sacked by Championship club Derby after a dramatic collapse left them missing even the play-off and only lasted 13 months on his return to FC Twente.

Great coach blah blah blah we kept being told, well he doesn’t appear to be a great manager!

After having resisted Newcastle’s advances when he still thought Derby might get into the Premier League, little wonder as a recently sacked lower league manager, Steve McClaren was prepared to take the Newcastle job under even worse terms than Alan Pardew!

No say on players, tow the party line, buy into the relentless PR campaign waged to try and make it look as though NUFC are a normal club and accept you have no say on whch players are bought and sold.

Can’t imagine where any of this could go wrong…!

Then you come to the actual job that he is seemingly allowed to get on with doing, without having his strings pulled by Ashley – selecting the team and formation, then coaching the players to do what is needed in his ‘system’.

The pre-season matches had me increasingly worried but once again we are patronised as we are told not to worry, they are actually a massive success as it is players getting fit, learning their jobs and so on.

Yes losing friendlies is neither here nor there but surely it has to be a worry when the performances are crap time after time and there is no apparent plan on how to try and score a goal (more on that later)?

When the pre-season schedule was announced, I thought it was clear what the plan was. After almost getting relegated last season, let’s arrange a series of matches against a load of cannon fodder, a load of fixtures against teams from several levels below us, score loads of goals and a series of morale boosting wins.

Oh dear.

Defeats to York City and Portland Timbers’ reserve team were probably the real low points but it was more the game after game lack of a credible game plan that was most worrying.

Gini Wijnaldum looked like he knew where the back of the net was and the other highlight was winger Rolando Aarons but then McClaren put him at left-back before ignoring him when the season kicked off and he predictably became injured yet again.

Never mind, it will all come together once the season kicks off, as Steve McClaren kept telling us.

We are still waiting.

I don’t see any plan apart from trying to stop the opposition playing and scoring, neither of which have worked particularly well, especially when only Sunderland have conceded more goals (one) than Newcastle.

I would love to know what the McClaren theory is on how the team will score goals.

Every other team I can see how they hope to win a game but not Newcastle.

You have for example teams like Man City and Arsenal who have cute interpassing to try and pull you apart and score perfect goals.

Leicester are always looking to release Vardy with passes between the defenders to try and release him for yet another goal, or getting the ball out to Mahrez to cut inside and bend one in the top corner.

Norwich, Bournemouth, Swansea – they all have a plan, even if it doesn’t always work.

If I’m being generous I would say that Newcastle have a plan, which entails keeping a minimum of seven or eight players defending at any one time with the hope that you will frustrate and tire the opposition for 70/75 minutes, then hope to sneak a win thanks to Sissoko being able to run as fast in the final stages as he can do the rest of the game and take advantage of more space and a tired opposition.

Look at yesterday’s game, what was Steve McClaren’s master plan to score a goal against Aston Villa?

Unless it was to kick a corner along the ground and skid it through the puddles to somebody at the back post, I didn’t see one.

We were told that Mitrovic was the focus of the team and everything was built around him, then he gets left out and when he does play, we never play the winger (Thauvin) who brought in to supply the ammunition for a striker who has scored the majority of goals in his career with his head.

We play with two extra defenders in the middle of the pitch, even against a rotten Aston Villa, at home!

Nobody dictating play in the middle and linking up attacks, no wingers.

Nearly all of our ‘attacks’ are down the right, which simply consists of Janmaat and/or Sissoko trying to force the ball up the pitch in the hope that something might happen when they get there!

As for team selection…Newcastle struggled to create at Tottenham until Perez and Mitrovic came on and transformed the situation, scoring and creating the goals.

Then both are left out yesterday, supposedly to help give some continuity/stability. Madness.

After four months under Steve McClaren, Newcastle are still yet to put in a 90 minute performance where they boss the game.

We battled to stifle Liverpool, played well for an hour or so against Chelsea and deserved to be in front, although nine other Premier League clubs have actually beaten them!

Norwich was a mad game where United’s finishing was exemplary but the Canaries could easily have matched Newcastle’s six goals, in fact Stoke was probably the best performance and the players/McClaren couldn’t even manage a single goal in that one.

We all know that the problems start with Mike Ashley and Steve McClaren is undoubtedly also affected by the owner’s manipulation and stupidity in football matters.

BUT he should still be doing far far better than what is the case.

When you look at a manager you look at what he has done before and you make a judgement based on his achievements and style of football.

Steve McClaren has lived up to my expectations and until he is replaced there is no chance of moving on…with or without Mike Ashley.

(Dean is just one of our ever expanding team of regular/irregular writers, send in your original articles for our website to [email protected] and share them with the world – all views are the author’s own etc etc)


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