After nine days in the sun, Newcastle returned to Premier League action on Wednesday. You would have thought they would have been brighter than they have been this season and for the opening twenty minutes or so they were. But as usual Newcastle faded fast and eventually they were beaten once again. Rumours of a dressing room rift have surfaced once again following Wednesday nights narrow 1-0 defeat to Stoke. Whilst the club continues to plug the usual line of all is well, several sources close to the club insist that the senior players in the squad have become disillusioned by the way manager Steve McClaren is running the team. The pressure on the former England manager is mounting as patience for his consistent excuses runs out.
Up until their mid season summer retreat, McClaren has been overly protective of his players reassuring the press and fans that the effort is there but Newcastle have just been incredibly unlucky. There is always an element of luck in football but in this case, it has nothing to do with it. An inability to hit the back of the net on a regular basis coupled with dubious defending at the back are two of the primary reasons Newcastle find themselves in the bottom three. There simply cannot be any excuses for McClaren who has been given more than most Newcasyle boss got and failed to deliver.
Owner Mike Ashley is no longer tinkering in the running of the club or appointing his buddies to “help” the manager as he has so often done in the past. He has also put his money where his mouth is and sank considerable funds into the development and signature of players for the first team. The result is that Newcastle have one of if not the strongest squad in the bottom half of the table but yet still find themselves in danger of relegation. The reason is simple – McClaren. His failures to pick and execute on winning strategy are at the heart of Newcastle’s problems. A great coach in many people eyes he may be but as a manager he is unable to cope. He has been given long enough to find a formula that works but instead spends his time researching new ways of saying his players tried hard but were unlucky. Now with the end of the line fast approaching, McClaren has started to criticize his players in an effort to up their game. But even that tactic has failed miserably with several players now turning on the manager. It should have been the final straw for this bumbling manager but he will get one last chance.
Saturday becomes a must win game for Newcastle as they face Bouremouth. Eddie Howe’s side were most people’s candidate to go straight back down this season after winning a surprise promotion last year. But unlike McClaren, Howe has worked hard to figure out how to get the best out of his players in England’s top league. With eleven games to go, Bournemouth sit comfortably in the bottom half knowing that two or three more wins will likely be enough to make them secure. That could start tomorrow with all three points against Newcastle in a result that would surely be the final nail in McClaren’s coffin. Ironically Howe could be the perfect replacement for the outgoing Newcastle boss as he has proven that he can manage in the Premier League under difficult circumstances and still get results. Bournemouth have played with confidence throughout the campaign despite being favourites for the drop. That confidence has been lacking at St James Park all season and McClaren is to blame for that. Confidence comes from the manager first and foremost but if the players have no confidence in him then the job is even harder. If Newcastle want to remain in the Premier League they must sack McClaren now regardless of what happens tomorrow against Bournemouth. It could be their only hope.