It is a fair question and I don’t think it’s premature to ask it now. How did Steve McClaren get the Newcastle United job? A further question might be what is Steve McClaren doing to prove that he should keep that job?
I don’t think McClaren’s CV is particularly impressive. He may have won the League Cup with Boro and impressed with Man Utd as a coach but even that meagre fare doesn’t bear scrutiny under the harsh light of his abysmal stewardship as an international manager with England, his failures at Wolfsburg, Forest and Derby. Four jobs which have seen him sacked two of which in a lower division. Of course it would be remiss not to mention his success with FC Twente where he won the Eredevise. I don’t wish to trash that competition but where would you place the competitiveness of that league? England? France? Spain? Germany? Italy? Portugal? Belgium? For me I’d be more impressed by a Championship win of the sort delivered by Chris Hughton.
His main qualification for the United job appears to be his long-term friendship with Graeme Carr a man who in all but name is the Director of Football. We are aware of the tensions between Carr and Pardew so I can understand a desire for an improvement between the coach and the man who picks the players. However, on the basis of what we’ve seen so far this season, this is the extent of the case for McClaren to manage/coach or act as the fall-guy for a dysfunctional sporting institution.
Whatever McClaren is or isn’t doing can be the subject for intense debate and I know it was in the shabeens and flop joints of NE1 in the aftermath of a quite disgraceful performance at home to Leicester City. But without getting into the minutiae of debates about individual players, let’s settle on some elements of that performance and others we’ve seen so far this season.
No.1 – MOTIVATION – the players are not motivated and have no desire. That is not the rolling-eyed extreme ramblings of a fanzine nutter, that is the opinion of one Alan Shearer who is probably the most prominent Newcastle United person on the planet. When a figure as important to the club as Alan Shearer is openly accusing Newcastle United players of not trying, not putting the effort in, not caring then we are at a very serious point. Let’s be absolutely honest though, Alan Shearer is completely spot on. The Leicester game wasn’t the first time the white flag has been pulled up the pole this season and I doubt it will be the last. We travel to Selhurst Park next season with a growing sense of dread. We know we’ll lose.
McClaren isn’t motivating the players. That is crystal clear.
No.2 – GAME PLAN – McClaren has been at United since May. He had a full pre-season and he has now had coming up to half a season. No-one really understands the way McClaren wants the team to play. There are no partnerships around the pitch, no clever combinations and defensively we are as bad as we’ve ever been. The second and third Leicester goals were rank incompetence. McClaren can talk about the training ground all he likes but the fact is whatever mysterious progress he claims to be making at Benton isn’t making the journey to SJP or onto the bus for away games.
You might ask who comes up with the idea of Anita dropping into defence to pick the ball up from Elliott and instantly pass it to a defender as the opposition moves forward to put us under pressure. It is utterly baffling anyone would continue to do this.
No.3 – LEADERSHIP – It has been said before and doubtless it will be said again. The team is utterly bereft of leadership all over the pitch. Coloccini is completely ineffectual as club captain. Sissoko as one of our better players (and I use the term warily) does not do the basics and I’m not the only one baffled by his supposed desire to move onto bigger and better things. All over the pitch there are players hiding, going into their little shells, not taking responsibility and there is no single or group of senior players rallying the troops. No-one wants to know. There is a severe absence of character in this team.
McClaren has spoken about January and some rubbish about three transfer windows to get things right. Anyone swallowing this? If any decent offer is made for any of our players who have something about them (Sissoko, Perez, Janmaat etc) then they will be accepted and they will be sold. Further, if anyone thinks signing some new players is the answer then that route is marked Graeme Carr. After so many abysmal signings who has any confidence in Carr to bring in players who can cut it in the Premier League? Further, who has confidence in Charnley agreeing the right deals and finally who has confidence in McClaren to get them into a coherent team that can play some winning football?
Will the policy continue to be looking for players with a sell-on value from a limited number of inferior European leagues and hoping for the best?
That model for recruitment is a tried and tested failure and our league position this season and last and before that amply demonstrate that.
It may be my pessimism but I really don’t see how Newcastle United gets out of this mess with the current personnel at the club in every position of authority, though ultimately I see no path to even modest success under the debilitating ownership of Mike Ashley.
I spent some time post-match debating whether the second half we’d just witnessed at SJP was the worst we’d ever seen. Sadly, we have a big choice to pick from. Everyone has their own opinions obviously and none are more or less valid than the next man or woman but I’m struggling to think of a time in the 40-odd years I’ve been trudging to matches when I’ve seen our support so utterly dejected and completely defeated as that second half on Saturday gone. The last 15-20 minutes when the team seemed to forget where they were and what they were doing with vast expanses of empty seats and fans streaming for the exits struck me as a new low. When Mags I’ve known for a long time and who are as staunch as they come are about to chuck in season tickets there is something underway, a real sea-change is happening. Of course the rank rotten football on show is the big driver for more people to join the exodus out of the stands but the continuing piss-take of match-day tickets being sold to walk-up fans for better seats than those of us on long term season ticket deals. I sometimes wonder if having a season ticket is the most expensive way to watch Newcastle United. Why do we put up with it?
This Saturday coming will doubtless be relished by Alan Pardew as an opportunity to demonstrate to his former employers and us that he was not the dummy we all thought he was. Frankly, Pardew’s record at United was poor. He was terrible in all bar one season. His record in Cup competitions was abysmal and his derby results need no highlighting. His treatment of Jonas Gutiérrez was absolutely shameful and his sucking up to Ashley nauseating. He was tactically limited and was unable to very often get the team back into games once they had gone a goal behind. But the truth is he was working at a club that is completely dysfunctional and at which I don’t think anyone will ever really be successful so long as Ashley suffocates the life from us. I don’t doubt we’ll lose at Palace and I’d expect it will be heavily.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …