Like Tony Blair riding into Downing Street on wave in 1997, Steve McClaren comes into Newcastle seemingly to a backdrop of ‘things can only get better.’
OK, so the wild optimism and backslapping of the first Labour government in nearly 20 years sweeping to power is hardly mimicked on Tyneside just at the moment with the glorious arrival of the all-conquering Steve McClaren. But the doom and gloom of last season should surely lift a bit. Things really can only get better.
So who wouldn’t like to be Steve McClaren right now? No manager comes into the job thinking they’re going to fail, but to do any worse than where Newcastle ended up at the end of last season would be failure on a catastrophic scale. So there’s optimism that McClaren can lead Newcastle onwards and upwards, in the short term at least.
In fact, there’s optimism all over the Premier League. Every team should have a reason to be cheerful. The new TV rights deal has seen clubs spend money this season, transfer records are being broken left, right and centre and every team is strengthening.
Optimism reigns because there’s nothing quite like new blood. New managers and new signings excite, especially record signings. And so when a new manager comes into the club and breaks the club transfer record to sign a Dutch international midfielder then expectations rise just that little bit more.
Mike Ashley’s deep pockets looked to be rendered useless by pathogenically small arms, but the fact that the club has more money to play with may have something to do with the new signings. The problem is, every club has that money now.
Teams around where Newcastle were at the end of last season are doing business too. Aston Villa may have lost their best player, but they’re strengthened well – though they need to be careful that all of these new signings won’t make the club undergo a Spurs-like spiral of post-partum depression. Leicester broke their record transfer twice last season and Pardew and Palace have broken it too.
The good news is that Newcastle aren’t really competing with those clubs. Most fans of other teams would certainly accept that Newcastle are a mid-table side at worst – and the fact that they were anywhere near a relegation scrap at all last season was mystifying.
So back to this season. A new manager with a point to prove, exciting young players like Alexandar Mitrovic and record signing Gregorio Wijnaldum could potentially add a power and technique that Newcastle fans will love. And you can add Chancel Mbemba to those two assuming his visa is approved and he is the age Newcastle think he is!
They are three players who should take to the Premier League well, given their physical attributes. They are athletic players who shouldn’t need too long to adapt, and with Mitrovic scoring in pre-season, he can hit the ground running and find some form. He might be a player to watch over the next few months.
So there should be optimism around Newcastle, fans should be happier than they have been in a while, but it should be a cautious optimism. The new signings and new beginnings can be seen in a positive light, but the fact that the Premier League is now in a position where even the smallest clubs can pay close to £10m on players means that everyone now has to spend big.
Perhaps that means managing expectations, but after last season it seems all the Toon Army want is a team that tries, not necessarily a team that wins trophies. Not yet. Steve McClaren is in an enviable position because whatever happens this season he can point the debacle of last season, and how things can only get better.