It is the first day of June tomorrow there are completely unsubstantiated rumours in the press about Andy Carroll returning to Newcastle United, I’ve taken my big coat back out of the wardrobe again and so, everything is as normal on Tyneside as we head into the summer close season period.
I’m typing this up having been interrupted in my Sunday morning coffee shouting at David Cameron on the news by a call from Talksport, canvassing opinion from Mags about the rumoured interest in Patrick Viera for the United job. It’s a bit of a left-field development but has been in the background over the last week as Steve McLaren’s name continues to be linked to the job and John Carver has gone to Pontins with the bairns.
I’ll be honest, the idea of Steve McLaren as United manager leaves me cold. On balance I
don’t think he’s an improvement on Pardew and whilst people can argue about the fine detail of their respective careers, I do know Pardew has managed more recently in the Premiership and McLaren has latterly failed in the Championship with resources the equal if not greater than those who have succeeded in the last couple of years. I had regarded him as having done reasonably well at Boro, absolutely stunk the place out with the England job, did a bit to re-establish himself in the Eredevisie with Twente but then bombed in the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg when he attempted to take another step up. Then with Derby he’s failed in his mission to get them promoted when others like Bournemouth, Leicester, Burnley, Watford and Norwich have succeeded. Derby is the superior of all of those clubs in their standing in my opinion. I’ve subsequently spoken to a few decent Boro lads of my acquaintance and they reckon the football McLaren’s team played at The Riverside was rank. Apart from a long-standing relationship with Graeme Carr and Lee Charnley, I don’t see a lot to recommend McLaren. He is yesterday’s man.
I had spent the early part of last week nodding approvingly at the rumours Michael Laudrup had emerged as a runner for the United hot-seat. Urbane, confident and with a lack of desperation Ashley would be able to exploit, I liked the cut of the Laudrup jib. Factor in the small matter of Swansea’s excellent style of football and the small matter of a League Cup on the Liberty Stadium mantelpiece as well as some ambition for his own career and Laudrup looked like a good contender. The fly in the Laudrup ointment however is the circumstances of his Swansea job ending. That has never been suitably dealt with and would plant a seed of doubt for me with Laudrup. There is the whiff of how Gullit’s time with Chelsea ended and which Shepherd chose to ignore when he appointed him at United. That said, I’d have Laudrup ahead of McLaren by a Geordie country mile.
Then there is the Viera question. It would certainly be a bold, imaginative appointment and it would make a statement. There are a lot of plus points for a Viera appointment but I suppose many of them could be made for any former player of great status who gets a first significant appointment and the history books are littered with the names of excellent players who have not made it as managers whereas the best managers of the modern age (Mourinho, Wenger and Ferguson) are those who barely registered as players. There are of course great players who have also become great managers too.
But maybe that doesn’t matter at all. Unlike some I could name, Viera has eschewed a life sitting on a sofa stating the obvious for getting out and doing the hard miles as a coach with Man City’s development squad. For me, that suggests for all his superstar status, Viera has a hunger and love of the game at its most basic level. It suggests an appetite to be out in all weathers in northern England taking training when I’m sure his bank balance would allow him to be tossing it off on a beach and making regular smiling TV appearances with the usual ex-pros taking the soft option.
For United, I can see the club benefitting from the stardust he would bestow upon St James’ Park and I imagine our continental profile and global appeal would be significantly enhanced by having Viera on Barrack Road. As a club we have worked the French market for players and that could only be enhanced by having a figure of Viera’s standing at Newcastle United. If Ashley is serious about investing in players, having Viera at the club could potentially tip the balance in the better ones coming to and staying on Tyneside.
Of course, any new manager / head coach coming into United has to do so on the correct terms. I cannot square the idea of a new era at United, a new broom if you like with Pardew’s backroom staff still hanging around the place and although it might cost money they have to be moved to one side and the new man has to be able to do his own thing.
I don’t necessarily have a problem with the split between a Director of Football and the Head coach in terms of how it works in principle. The days of managers, with all but a few exceptions, running clubs from top to bottom is over at the highest level. The job is just far too big for one person but the manager / coach must have a say in who is brought in and how he wishes to develop the first team squad. It’s no good giving a coach Stoke’s players if the manager wants to play Arsenal’s football. There has to be an agreed and shared philosophy at every level and that has to run through the club. That is where Ashley has failed previously (notwithstanding a lack of investment overall) and the match of Wise-Keegan was disastrous and so I’m led to believe the combination of Carr-Pardew was not without its difficulties with the evidence being Mbwia, Santon and our ex-manager rumoured to not even know who Riviere was when he turned up at Benton.
Of course in the North East we’ve had our share of great players becoming managers with mixed results. Down the road, Roy Keane’s high standards, will to win and star-status galvanised the Mackems for a while before the ex-Man Utd man hit the self-destruct button and his Ipswich experience demonstrated that was more down to him than any circumstances he might have been in. Bryan Robson at ‘Boro had a similar galvanising impact on Teesside and for all it turned sour at The Riverside for Captain Lager, many Boro fans will look back on that era of Robson with Juninho, Ravanelli, Emerson and the move to a new stadium with great fondness. At SJP we have had World Cup winners Jack Charlton and Ossie Ardiles who were both terrible. Dalglish was a disaster, despite having this Mag utterly convinced we were now about to sweep the board on the day he was appointed. I’d failed to notice the tectonic plates of football had shifted and how Kenny had become yesterday’s man despite a brilliant pre-NUFC CV. He went to Celtic after United and demonstrated like Keane, it was him that was the problem not the club. Obviously, we had Gullit who was spectacularly piss-poor in every respect and another great player but shit manager , Souness almost destroyed the whole club – though to listen to the whopper in the media that was all down to United and not him. He’s declined to prove that to be the case by staying on his arse in a TV studio however. If only the world was different Graeme eh?
Of course the massive exception we have experience of is Kevin Keegan. I don’t think younger supporters really appreciate KK’s superstar status as a player as it is now drifting into the mists of time. Twice European Player of the Season. European Cup winner! Captain of England when it meant something! Old farts like me very much remember KK’s status. I’d hate to draw a modern comparison but I can’t see Wayne Rooney play without thinking he’s still got a way to go to match KK.
When KK returned to United as manager, he of course had a relationship with the club following two brilliant seasons as a player and captain. He could push buttons and had a feel for the area for family reasons but let’s not forget after spending eight years in Spain and largely out of football, he was a massive risk. The club was on its arse and in financial difficulties but he galvanised the whole club and his enthusiasm and commitment, ambition and will swept the club forward. It was an inspired appointment and we need that kind of pivotal appointment now.
Whether that will be Viera or Laudrup, I don’t know but I do know McLaren would be completely uninspiring.
This isn’t a time for Health & Safety appointment like McLaren. It’s time to be bold and for Newcastle United to start believing in itself again and to take risks to galvanise the support and get our pride back.
This could be the last opportunity for a long time to come.
It wasn’t until the middle of last week when I managed to watch the West Ham game in full again. The most curious point of the coverage was the post-match discussion and obviously I do take a rather morbid interest in the comments of our ex-manager, Graeme (too much make-up but I do like the new gnashers) Souness. It’s not even Newcastle United related to be honest but I couldn’t help wondering how little those in football as players or managers know about the culture and history of the clubs they are passing comment upon. The discussion between Souness-Carragher-Redknapp(Jamie) triggered by the man who bought Celastine Babayaro on a recommendation from Ray Wilkins to Newcastle United was about the sacking of Allardyce and the “West Ham way”. Souness has a sneering lack of regard for clubs he doesn’t regard as top drawer but his repeated lack of understanding for what he spoke of as the “West Ham way” exposed his ignorance.
I hardly have an affection for West Ham but I get what Hammers fans mean when they talk about a certain West Ham style as I do when Spurs and Everton fans do likewise. But Souness seems pointedly ignorant of it. Let me educate Souness if on the wild off-chance he is reading this – its Bobby Moore’s nobility and his silky, unruffled defending, it’s the long-serving stalwarts of great turns like Alvin Martin, Trevor Brooking, Billy Bonds, Frank Lampard (snr) and a toughness of players like Martin Allen and Julian Dicks. It’s about producing players like Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick, Frank Lampard, Jermaine Defoe from their academy and having hosted great coaches like Greenwood, Lyall, Allison et al. It’s players like Cottee, McAvennie and turns like Di Canio (though not often far from the London orbital) and it’s a team getting it on the deck and passing it, attacking and playing with the joy of the sport.
That is written into the West Ham fan’s DNA just as ours contains memories and tales of Milburn, Mitchell, Robledo, Davies, Green, Smith, Beardsley, Keegan, Gascoigne, Ginola, Shearer etc and SJP on its feet roaring on wild attacking football.
I’m sure any real football enthusiast could expand upon the culture of any number of clubs and not all of them have a procession to silverware (most upholstered by foreign patronage) but for someone paid to have an opinion on the game, his ignorance and lack of appreciation was truly astonishing.
It’s probably why he’s a shit manager and a bit of a wanker then.
We are in the process of putting the Summer Special issue of true faith together and we’ve already had some absolutely brilliant pieces in for editing and they are now getting the art-work done on what promises to be a fantastic read.
Remember if you fancied having a go at writing for one of the biggest, best known and respected fanzines in the country, just drop us a line on firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll put you to work.
All the best
Keep On, Keepin’ On ….