St James’ Park is not the happiest of football grounds these days. The fans there have endured more than their fair share of heartache, misery and tedious mediocrity over the years, and this season does not look like it’s about to get any better.
After last-day survival last term partially masked what was largely a dire struggle of a campaign, new manager Steve McClaren has not got off to the best of starts. Still winless after eight games and seemingly lacking confidence, ability and ideas, how long will it be before the Tyneside locals start to become restless once again? While McClaren will of course have a few months, maybe half a season, of relative respite from criticism as allowances are made for his inexperience and newness to the job, eventually the patience of those who follow the black and white home and away will start to wear thin if results do not improve.
This is when Ashley must stick to his guns and keep faith with McClaren. While sacking managers is easy to do and often does bring some form of short-term gain, this effect is equally likely to be short-lived and merely plasters over underlying fault lines at the club in question. While McClaren may not be a miracle-worker and certainly does not command the respect of an overwhelming majority of supporters, the fact remains that he is a good coach and has shown his ability on several occasions and in several countries. The job he did at Middlesbrough, including top half finishes and appearances in the latter stages of the Europa League, is looking better and better with every season they remain stuck in the Championship, while the achievement of winning the Eredivisie with FC Twente obviously stands out as the highlight on his CV. Yes, the England debacle clearly will scar him forever, but I believe it was simply a case of too much too soon, and that if offered the job a second time (which will never happen, of course), he would make a much better fist of it. To put it simply, he is a man who knows how he wants to coach his teams and generally manages to make it happen.
McClaren did have the summer to make whatever signings he could, and to be fair to him it does appear that his hands were somewhat tied. Mike Ashley has steadily overseen the decline of Newcastle from a side that constantly hovered around the edges of the European places, to a side that now struggles to stay afloat and are in danger this year of sinking without a trace. Despite spending more money this summer than at the start of many previous seasons, there were still not many players there who were experienced and proven at this level. Not only this, but he will need time as well to remove the forests of deadwood that have accumulated around the squad – now is not the time to name names but that squad needs an overhaul of gigantic proportions, and all that takes time.
In essence, McClaren and Newcastle need stability, and that will involve giving him time and yet more time this year, even when results are not going their way. It is unlikely that they will end up near the relegation zone, and so he should be given the whole season to try and arrest the decline before using the transfer market and the summer to turn the fortunes of this sleeping giant in the north east around.