Well the dust has settled not only on the end of our Premier League season, but also on the melodrama which ensued following Mike Ashley’s interview in which he claimed we would be going gang busters to win something and that he would ‘continue’ investing in the club (!)
It was obvious that we were never going to win something with John Carver at the helm yet his name still hung about like a bad stench when discussions surrounding who the next head coach was going to be. Patrick Vieira’s name went as quickly as it came and when the club announced Carver and Stone had been released by the club (hopefully by telephone) it was clear that McClaren was the only man truly considered for the position – as he had been ever since Pardew left for pastures new “darn sarf”.
I don’t know about you, but the thought of Steve McClaren leading Newcastle either to a trophy, or to a Champion’s League finish (which constitutes winning something in Ashley’s book) is as laughable as it is ludicrous. Yes, McClaren has got title and trophy winning pedigree; he was Sir Alex Ferguson’s number 2 at Manchester United when they won numerous trophies, including the infamous treble. He also won the League Cup with the smoggies and won an Eredivisie with FC Twente. So we have got a head coach who has at least been somewhat familiar with winning silverware. However, he has also had atrocious spells at Nottingham Forest, Wolfsburg, not to mention failing to get Derby County promoted despite being in a commanding position with around 10 games to go. Also, it’d be remiss of me not to mention that he failed to secure qualification to Euro 2008 despite having one of the best England sides in recent years. His record may even itself out on balance if one were to be very generous to him.
In truth, it is entirely a waste of time discussing McClaren’s credentials. At best, he is a safe pair of hands, and at worst he’s another Alan Pardew – a mouthpiece for the most insidious regime we’ve encountered at NUFC in living memory. With the current crop of players, I would venture that Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancellotti, and Arsene Wenger would struggle to crack the top 8 and have a decent shout at the cups – which is what McClaren reckons we should be doing. With the exception of Ayoze Perez, Daryl Janmaat, Tim Krul and Papiss Cisse (on their day), we have a squad devoid of talent. Moussa Sissoko performs well (ish) against the big sides, but is frustratingly inconsistent and clearly wants away from the club. Siem de Jong and Cheick Tiote struggle for fitness, and Remy Cabella…is simply shit. I’d be wasting my breath on the likes of Dummett, Williamson, Colo, Anita, Riviere, Gouffran, Ameobi and Colback, the latter of which play with “Geordie Pride” but that is not enough if you’re looking to build a top side.
What I am trying to say is that we’re in desperate need of a clear out. We need to torch this squad and start again. Wholesale changes are necessary if we are to genuinely crack the top 8 which is occupied by the top four plus the likes of Liverpool, Southampton, Spurs and Swansea. These teams are currently out of our league. These teams invest significantly more in their managerial and playing staff and operate with significantly much more ambition than we do. While these clubs are managed by the likes of Pochettino, Rogers, Koeman and Monk, we’ve hired the “wally with the brolly”. Furthermore, you only need to take one look at our squad compared to these teams to realise how drastically short of quality we are by comparison.
This is even before we consider clubs like Everton, West Ham and even Stoke City, all of whom have better squads and arguably better managers than we do. Suddenly, top 10 is becoming like a distant pipe dream, never mind the top 8. That is, unless we spend significant sums of money this summer, not merely on quality, or quantity – but significant sums on both. By my reckoning we are 6/7 quality players short of a side that can realistically break the top 8, and a further 6/7 short of good solid squad players who can keep the first team players on their toes.
Does an outlay of £50+ million on over 10 players seem like the sort of business Mike Ashley would do? Forget what he said in his interview, base this answer on the facts you have seen before you. Will Mike Ashley spend £50 million in one transfer window on over 10 players? The answer is an emphatic “No!”
So, for argument’s sake, let us state that Mike Ashley knows he isn’t going to spend this sort of money on that many players. Let’s say he knows that it is relatively impossible for us to crack the top 8 without a serious stroke of good fortune. Let’s say that he knows Steve McClaren is not the kind of head coach who can deliver upon these promises. Why then does the club’s PR (led by the incomparable PR guru and Ashley bezzie mate, Keith Bishop) spin out that these are exactly the targets we are pushing for? Why did the club go into PR overdrive with Mike Ashley’s interview? Could it be that the club is simply trying to convey the impression that things are changing in order to appease the fans, once more, into buying season tickets? Could it be that by sacking Carver (a figure of ridicule for his short tenure as head coach) is merely an extension of that PR drive? Could it be that nothing, I repeat, nothing has changed at the club at that next season will be the same old s**t churned out in an ever so slightly different way?
It will be interesting to see what the circus that is NUFC produces next season. I will be looking at every development this summer with a healthy detachment from this once fine club. I will be firm in the belief that even a significant outlay will represent PR spinning, deception, and smoke and mirrors. All to obfuscate and bamboozle us into thinking we’re entering a bright new era.
The club is dead. Long live the club.