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The early Steve McClaren blunder that could cost Newcastle the season

6 years ago

Steve McClaren laid the foundations for Newcastle United’s early season struggles before a ball had even been kicked in anger.

For somebody who has prided himself on a concentration on the psychology of the game throughout his managerial career, how could Steve McClaren get it so wrong?

As soon as the fixtures were announced in June, Steve McClaren started talking about how tough the opening set of fixtures were.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that he was dampening down the expectations of supporters and indeed Mike Ashley, trying to give himself some breathing space if the opening games went badly.

However, what McClaren did in trying to cover his back with these remarks, was to then seemingly help create a culture within the squad and the coaching staff, where the expectation was that Newcastle wouldn’t pick up many points in the opening phase of the season.

A self-fulfilling prophecy…?

As the season became ever closer, the mentions by Steve McClaren, his coaching staff and even the players, became ever louder. Newcastle were going to be really up against it and it was almost going to be seen as a bonus if they picked up more than a few points in the opening weeks, couple of months.

Sure enough, the season started and with each passing game the message was repeated, don’t worry, we always knew these were going to be difficult games early on…(just wait until we play the likes of Leicester and Palace!).

The reality is that whilst some teams are obviously better than others, there are now no great teams in the Premier League and even the better ones aren’t ultra consistent.

The results this season have proved that on their day, anybody can pretty much beat anyone…..

Bournemouth 1 Chelsea 0, Newcastle 2 Liverpool 0, Swansea 2 Manchester United 0, West Brom 2 Arsenal 1, Stoke 2 Man City 0, Palace 0 Sunderland 1 and so on…

To me, Steve McClaren’s pre-season and early season messages have helped fuel the problems in the dressing room, a set of player with battered confidence and dubious characters in a number of cases – then told that they aren’t really expected to win many/any of the early games.

If that isn’t a recipe for disaster then I don’t know what is.

When you look back at the opening two months of the season up to the end of September, Newcastle played seven Premier League matches and won none of them.

This is who United played and in brackets after each club is where they currently are positioned in the Premier League:

Southampton (12th), Swansea (15th), Man Utd (4th), Arsenal 2nd), West Ham (7th), Watford (10th), Chelsea (14th).

What that tells us is that in the opening seven matches, Newcastle were playing on average a middle (9th placed) Premier League team week in week out.

Steve McClaren created a fear that should never have been there.

Newcastle should have approached every match with the expectation of at least a point and the hope of a win, instead they were seemingly a goal down before they even left the dressing room.

Then what happens is, is that you start off the season with this negative mentality and you go two months without a win, then it created a real monster. A team that started the season not expecting to win many games, then goes on to not win any in two months.

Steve McClaren has helped create/reinforce a losing mentality in the Newcastle United dressing room and it will be a fight week in week out for this group of players to have any chance of freeing themselves from that mentality medium/long-term.

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