Has Steve McClaren finally realised the size of the task ahead of him?
It seems that after 24 league games; the Newcastle boss has recognised just what a battle he’s gotten himself into.
When McClaren came to Newcastle United last summer, the feeling was that the relegation battle of the season prior was the wake-up call the club needed, at least in his mind.
Indeed, a spot amongst the Premier League’s top eight was the aim.
There were signings; Wijnaldum, Mitrović, Mbemba, Toney and Thauvin. Newcastle United were apparently rebuilding.
Following an opening day draw against a competent Southampton outfit, there was a hopeful feeling amongst fans that perhaps the bad times were finally behind them and Newcastle could really compete in the top half instead of the bottom.
Of course, Steve McClaren was happy with the signings coming through the door. Now with a seemingly capable squad, relegation was probably the last thought on his mind, Mike Ashley’s too.
Following a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford and a spirited-display in a 1-0 loss to Arsenal, there seemed to be some logic that if The Magpies could play with such gusto against the big boys, surely when the time came to play rivals around them, the points would come.
But it was always there in the background; the backbone of a team who had barely escaped from the basement just months before, all carrying fragile mindsets, lacking confidence and ultimately, the consistency to carry any form from game to game.
Abject displays in September, losing away to West Ham and home to Watford, were the warning signs. But according to the former England boss, the time would come when the squad would gel, realise their potential and start picking up the points. Suddenly every week became another learning curve.
Given their own poor form, a draw against Chelsea and a 6-2 home win to Norwich now look anything but special. Sandwiched in-between, the infamous 6-1 rout/falling apart at the hands of Manchester City.
Again, it was a case of ‘nearly there’, according to you know who:
“We were unlucky last week and this week. There is enough in there, we just need consistency. Our season begins now.”
Instead it was more false starts; The nil-nil draw at home to Stoke, the fortunate 1-0 win at Bournemouth. Points were gained but instead of using these results to springboard onto better things, it was the same old story; thumped by Leicester and Crystal Palace.
The only real stand-out performances, victories against Liverpool and Tottenham now are long forgotten.
It seems every positive result is doomed to be followed by a run of awful performances. That ‘consistency’ as Steve McClaren calls it, is just not going to come.
It seemed to have finally dawned on him after the mid-week loss to Everton.
Relegation can no longer be laughed at, just as it was when the club negotiated with players such as Henri Saivet, who rightfully raised his concerns over the current predicament.
Relegation is not just something that can be brushed away with a pound or two spent. No amount of money spent in January is going to improve a squad that doesn’t have the passion and determination to grind out results and see the club safe.
“The season starts here.”
It’s a line we’ve heard all too often.
Steve McClaren has finally realised that the job ahead of him cannot be fixed in just three windows, or just a season or two. The task ahead is so much bigger than that. It’s time to start acting like it.
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