To say it has been a dismal start to the season for Newcastle United would be an understatement. 8 games in and they are at the bottom of the league with only 3 points and still without a win. The match last Saturday against Manchester City was the lowest point of the season so far, where they lost 6-1. Steve McClaren now sees himself in the firing line on behalf of his team, but should he be given more of a chance at the club or is the job just way too big for him?
The end of last season was a similar bleak story. The Magpies were in a last game of the season relegation battle, where their win against West Ham United narrowly secured their place in the Premier League. Interim Manager John Carver shortly after received his marching orders, and was replaced with Steve McClaren, the main reason being for his experience as a manager at previous clubs. His appointment came with a mixed reaction from fans, who questioned whether he was strong enough to turn the club around. The summer was one of the highest spending in Newcastle’s history, and supporters were given a glimmer of hope with rising stars in the form of Wijnaldum and Mitrovic joining the Toon.
Even though McClaren has been a manager at various clubs for a number of years now, his experience does need to come into question. Out of the last 21 league games in his career he has won only 2, demonstrating that it is not just the attitude at Newcastle that is at fault. His previous managerial experience has seen him being sacked from the England Manager job after just 16 months, and also being sacked by Championship side Derby County earlier this year. It is understandable therefore why Newcastle supporters were hesitant to accept McClaren’s arrival at the Toon, and also their frustration with how the club is being managed. It can be argued that McClaren knew exactly what he was letting himself in for by taking the job at Newcastle, as surely it would have come as no surprise the amount of issues involved at the club. Many managers have been and gone at Newcastle, and this lack of stability is part of the reason why the club is in such a crisis. Alan Pardew was the longest running manager to maintain his position there since 2004, so it is no wonder that the players are struggling to play well with so many changes of managers and also changes to their tactics. McClaren has joined with a different format yet again to how the team is lined up, and the players could do with some consistency in how they are expected to perform.
Having said this, when a club is in crisis, it is never the sole blame of the manager. The players do need to take some responsibility also for portraying a real lack of commitment this season, and for failing to perform to the ability expected of them. So far this season not one player has stood out as showing their full potential, and unfortunately it appears that their mentality is incredibly negative. Steve McClaren comes across in interviews as being a very likeable and genuine character, and the lack of enthusiasm surrounding the club is sure to be something he is desperate to change. This is something that can’t be changed overnight, and could take a good few months to turn around. He has not really been at the club long enough yet to make a real impact, and it would be fair to give him a season at least to make his mark there.
The International break this weekend will not work in McClaren’s favour, as this is often a time when the board consider their options and know that they have time to find a successor. It would be a shame if Mike Ashley doesn’t give McClaren just a bit longer to prove he is worthy of the role, as Newcastle is in desperate need of some stability. If the situation is no better at Christmas then it may need to be re-evaluated, but making a rash decision now in my opinion is only going to make the situation worse. The test will be how they perform in the next few games. They have relatively easy fixtures ahead compared to the last few, with Norwich, Sunderland and Stoke being the next three. It will be interesting to see how they get on in the derby match, as Sunderland’s performance has been just as poor as Newcastle’s so far this season. If they fail to get any points in the next few games, then unfortunately for McClaren his job will certainly be under jeopardy.