Managing Newcastle: Steve McClaren’s impossible job as Coloccini’s low mood summed up club’s issues

It wasn’t the fact that Steve McClaren didn’t get it at Newcastle United, his failure on Tyneside almost certainly came down to one thing.

McClaren had been around the block already and succeeded on the managerial circuit and while some have him pigeon holed as a number 2 or leading first-team coach, winning the Carling Cup with Middlesbrough and reaching the UEFA Cup final with the Teessiders as well as winning the Dutch title with FC Twente suggests otherwise. His short tenure at Newcastle boiled down to a manager who underestimated just how bad things were at St James’ Park.

McClaren did all the usual things an incoming manager does when appointed at Newcastle by getting the media in for a cup of tea and becoming familiar with journalists. His interaction with fans came via sending supporters personal emails and open letters in the early months.

He tore up the club’s domestic cup policy which stated that younger sides would be fielded as the club focused on Premier League survival too.

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That was something new for fans at the time but it was never going to cut much ice with the hardcore supporters who’d had enough of Mike Ashley. From a distance, McClaren looked at Newcastle as a team that had just staved off relegation under John Carver in 2015 and would be able to quickly cement a position much further up the table.

Carver, who endured the brunt of the fury, knew that investment was needed but took on the challenge of managing an injury hit squad without a penny to spend and saw Davide Santon and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa also sold before a difficult winter task of retaining Premier League status.

Unlike Carver, McClaren was handed a decent transfer pot and handed Chancel Mbemba, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Florian Thauvin and Gigi Wijnaldum. My understanding though was that the trio of stars were already hand-picked by chief scout Graham Carr.

Newcastle United new signing Florian Thauvin pictured on the roof at St James' Park on August 19, 2015
Newcastle United new signing Florian Thauvin pictured on the roof at St James’ Park on August 19, 2015

Carr had already recommended McClaren to Mike Ashley and the club’s shortlived “football board” consisting of Lee Charnley and Bob Moncur went along with that idea. Yet it was soon obvious that McClaren own style of player was clearly missing from his squad.

At Boro, McClaren’s success had come through wingers such as homegrown Stewart Downing and Bolo Zenden while he also signed solid technical midfielders like Gaizka Mendieta and relied on experience at the back with Gareth Southgate and Ugo Ehiogu a sturdy defensive rearguard.

McClaren came in on June 10 but he was quickly trying to get to the bottom of some of the deep-rooted problems at Newcastle. Such as why club captain Fabricio Coloccini was out of sorts, why he’d inherited a squad with just two senior centre-backs in the Argentine international and Steven Taylor, why inflatable paddling pools were being used for player recovery and concerning lack of harmony around the place.

Within a couple of weeks of pre-season, McClaren had parted ways with goalkeeping coach Andy Woodman who told him he’d had enough on Tyneside and that the understanding between the pair was like “oil and water”. But bigger issues were around the corner and McClaren failed to win his first Premier League game in charge

It was on a pre-season trip to America that McClaren had quizzed and a colleague at a Sacramento hotel over why Coloccini was “high-maintenance” to manage. And what would be a respectable league finish in the eyes of the fans.

McClaren was just 11 minutes away from beating Southampton at home before a Shane Long equaliser left it all square. The former England head coach introduced a lap of appreciation after each game but it soon wore thin. Only a 4-1 win over Northampton in the Capital One Cup gave fans something to cheer in the first segment of games and it was game 11 in the Premier League by the time McClaren grabbed that elusive first victory over Norwich in an impressive 6-2 win with Wijnaldum scoring four times.

Former Newcastle boss Steve McClaren
Former Newcastle boss Steve McClaren

But by that time, Newcastle were already in the relegation zone and McClaren was under massive pressure. Just weeks earlier, McClaren had sat in his office and told me his hopes and dreams for what he believed could be an exciting new era.

I’d told him about the banner that fans had displayed the previous season which read: “We do not expect a team that wins – we expect a club that tries.” The ex-Boro boss responded: “You know what, I couldn’t have written a better banner myself.”

Only while McClaren, who’d sometimes be hoarse after training sessions, looked like he was trying more than his players at the time. A limp 3-0 defeat at Sunderland in which Coloccini was sent off made that abundantly clear.

But it was McClaren that was the man who had to take ownership of the result and wrote a letter of apology to the supporters in the aftermath. He penned: “Sunday’s derby defeat hurt us all and every one of us is sorry that we couldn’t deliver you the victory you deserved.

“I am certain that if it hadn’t been for Colo’s sending off, we would have delivered you that victory.” The players were not taking to McClaren and Coloccini, in what would be his last season on Tyneside with his close pal Jonas Gutierrez released on a free transfer, was not in a good place and unable to find his form.

To make matters worse, former boss Alan Pardew was flying with Crystal Palace in the Premier League and after beating the Magpies 5-1 at Selhurst Park he was understandably beside himself as he conducted media duties. Pardew said after the game: “I have got people I love at that club, fans, staff and players but whatever I say about Newcastle is contrived so I don’t want to say anything other than I hope their fortunes change.”

But McClaren openly admitted that there were issues at Newcastle and in the bowels of Selhurst Park said: “When we get disappointments, can we recover? We are not doing. We have to find a solution to that.

“It is not about systems, it is about attitude, about fight, about running backwards as quickly as you run forwards but when the third goal went in that went down.”

And that was the problem for McClaren, the attitude he inherited and tried so hard to change but ultimately found that too long under the guidance of Ashley, felt incurable.

McClaren tried to change things in mid-winter, arguing that many of the summer signings were already done before he’d agreed to take the job. He persuaded Charnley to let him sign Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend as he got his wish for a winger and a better passer of the ball in midfield.

But he was also handed a player he’d not asked for in Henri Saivet. And he was also told he’d be getting Seydou Doumbia on loan from Roma.

Despite some early impact from Shelvey and Townsend, with a 2-1 win over West Ham, the bottom was about to fall out again. Most notably a 3-0 defeat at Everton saw Jamaal Lascelles sent off but as he walked down the tunnel he was heard saying: “Nobody gives a ****”

McClaren’s side were then walloped 5-1 at Chelsea and the writing was on the wall ahead of what was supposed to be a morale-boosting sunshine trip to La Manga. A 2-1 win over Lillestrom and a “good week” in Spain papered over cracks because once Newcastle got back to the UK they failed to do it on a chilly night in Stoke, and a 1-0 in the Potteries had pushed McClaren closer to the exit door.

Newcastle vs Lillestrom - Steve McClaren
Newcastle vs Lillestrom – Steve McClaren

So it all boiled down to a home game against Bournemouth with McClaren involved in a stormy pre-match press conference. A 3-1 defeat followed and a few days later McClaren discovered via social media and TV bulletins that he’d been relieved of his duties.

Fans had turned on McClaren as Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth triumphed on Tyneside, after his exit, McClaren said: “I remain confident that we would have stayed in the Premier League.”

But Newcastle had just 24 points from 28 games and were second bottom with McClaren picking up just seven wins in charge. Later in life, McClaren said: “I didn’t really know what success looked like on and off the field. I just wanted the job. I made a big mistake.

“I just wanted the job and didn’t find out the real vision, direction, what success looked like, what I needed to do on and off the field and how I was to communicate with the owner, who’s the most important person at a football club.

“Usually, you communicate not in pairs but in threes so it’s always, say, myself, the CEO and the owner or myself, the technical director/sporting director and the owner. I never had that and that was a massive thing that I didn’t really know the vision.”

As Carver had warned before leaving, and as Rafa Benitez discovered after taking the job and failing to keep Newcastle up in 2016, the problems were too deep-rooted and a single football season was never going to be enough time to stop United falling.

There’s no doubt that McClaren is one of the best tracksuit coaches in the world but the heat of a football club the size of Newcastle in decline has proved too much for some of the biggest names in the game. McClaren was up against it from his first day in office.

View news Source: https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/managing-newcastle-steve-mcclarens-impossible-29030768

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