As a Newcastle United fan, the only football enjoyment I have experienced during this season so far, is Leicester City’s continued gatecrashing of the title race and Crystal Palace inevitably being Pardewed.
With Newcastle flirting with relegation like it’s 2009, is it time for Steve McClaren to depart as manager … sorry, ‘Head Coach’?
I for one backed Steve McClaren when he was appointed, along with Ian Cathro, I thought the group of players at NUFC would excel under the new coaching team. After the old school tactics of Pardew, Carver et al, a competent coach such as McClaren, with experience of football overseas (not to mention Cathro’s time with Valencia), was very much needed.
Even when initial results did not go Newcastle’s way, the signs were positive. Performances were encouraging, and the style of play an improvement on what had gone by. I told myself Newcastle had better players than last season, so the results would come…but as hindsight started to enter my consciousness, I began to realise I had been sucked into the Mike Ashley mindset … just enough is good enough.
The performances last season were so dire, anything would have be an improvement. The appointments under Ashley (or Charnley) had been so dire, therefore Steve McClaren was probably better than fans could have hoped for. I had accepted mediocrity without realising.
Now to give Mike Ashley credit, he stuck to his word and provided the funds, £80 million to be precise. Unfortunately for Newcastle fans, he gave Lee Charnley and Graham Carr responsibility for spending his investment. The likes of Yohan Cabaye are an exception to the rule now. Emmanuel Riviere and Yoan Gouffran are the benchmark Carr should be judged on.
Gini Wijnaldum, Alexsandar Mitrovic and Chancel Mbemba are an improvement on what has been scouted/bought over recent seasons. But then with more money at his disposal, you would expect the quality of player to increase.
In addition, this does not mean Graham Carr has improved as a scout. Any man or woman with an ounce of football knowledge would have known Wijnaldum was the star of PSV’s title winning side, and that Mitrovic was one of Europe’s top young talents.
One thing Steve McClaren has done well is to persuade Charnley/Carr that Newcastle desperately needed to buy British. The introduction of Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend is encouraging – but then you look at West Ham spending £4m on Sam Byram and wonder why we spent £5m on Henri Saivet, an average-at-best French midfielder. Yes they play different positions, but along with Byram’s undoubted potential, I think we can all agree defensive reinforcements were more important than another average midfielder in January.
Going into January, McClaren was vocal in stating Newcastle’s main problem was a lack of goals. Whilst the lack of goals was concerning, how he can talk about improvements to a Newcastle side without mentioning that defence, is beyond bizarre. When your team is still fielding the same defensive partnership that contributed to your relegation nearly SEVEN) years previously, you need to admit that defensive recruitment has been a catastrophic failure.
Any team with a left back choice of Paul Dummett or Massadio Haidara, an ageing and arguably pathetic captain in Fabricio Coloccini, local idiot Steven Taylor and one right back in the attacking but ultimately defensive nightmare that is Daryl Janmaat, deserves a relegation battle.
Back to Steve McClaren’s competence, and whilst he gets many plaudits from former players around how much of an excellent coach he is, his man-management skills are clearly lacking. This Newcastle squad is rotten to the core with chancers masquerading as footballers to earn a quick pay day. They are beyond coaching.
Leicester City are the perfect example of when attitude, determination, team ethics and hard work can make players perform beyond their ability. They fight for each other and are a joy to watch. Young fans can look to the likes of Jamie Vardy and realistically think, “if I work hard, I could become a footballer like him.” I couldn’t say the same thing about Moussa Sissoko.
The frustration shown by Shelvey and Townsend during the Chelsea game (and allegedly in the dressing room afterwards), confirms there are major issues with player attitude at Newcastle United. I sympathised watching Jonjo Shelvey arguing with Paul Simpson and McClaren on the touchline. You could see his anger at what other players were doing. The effort was not there and whilst Shelvey did not have the best of games, at least he was trying.
Do Shelvey’s actions however point to a lack of respect for Steve McClaren? Possibly. And I think this is also a major problem … the players are not playing for him. He lost the dressing room a long time ago, although I am not entirely sure he ever had it.
His record over the past 12 months with Derby and Newcastle is played 44, won 11. Only Newcastle could chase a manager for 6 months with a record like that, and reward failure with a promotion from the Championship.
If Newcastle do end up being relegated; McClaren, Charnley and Carr should all be held responsible. If Mike Ashley had any wits about him, he would sack all three this week. Rafa Benitez is desperate for a Premier League return and allegedly sounded out Newcastle in the summer.
Whilst many wouldn’t be impressed by a David Moyes appointment, he would certainly sort out Newcastle’s defence and demand respect from the players. Brendan Rodgers could be another option amongst a field of Premier League managers currently out of work who would be an instant improvement on McClaren.
So is it time for Steve to go? Undoubtedly yes.
He has had time, results have not improved and the club is hurtling towards a devastating relegation. Action is needed now, or else Newcastle United vs Aston Villa will be a second tier fixture for the first time since 1938.
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