Hamstrung by Newcastle's recruitment policy, Steve McClaren can only muddle along

The club’s run at the end of last season was nine defeats in 11 games

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The Independent Online

The apportionment of blame for the mess at Newcastle United becomes blurred because of the model the club rigidly sticks to. Steve McClaren has been the head coach – not manager – for six Premier League games and four of those have been lost, the last two to West Ham United and newly promoted Watford, 2-1 victors on Tyneside on Saturday. These are teams Newcastle’s supporters expect to beat.

The club’s run at the end of last season was nine defeats in 11 games. There were similarly life-sapping runs under Alan Pardew. It all adds up, painting layer upon layer of misery for fans beginning to question the depth of their loyalty.

You cannot sniff at a crowd of 47,806, given the mediocre fare served up at St James’ Park, but it is 4,500 down on the ground’s capacity. Spending £50m on transfers, as Newcastle did in the summer, was supposed to refill it.

McClaren is realising in a hurry the size of the job he has taken over. He has to breathe life into a moribund squad, and the recruitment process of chief scout Graham Carr identifying players and managing director Lee Charnley signing them is not working.

 

Newcastle were in desperate need of goalscorers in the summer – they have managed 14 goals in their last 21 Premier League games – but invested only in the volatile Aleksandar Mitrovic.

The 21-year-old Serb was suspended for the two latest defeats, leaving the tired Papiss Cissé as Newcastle’s only recognised centre-forward, as McClaren readily admitted.

He will have support from both his predecessors, John Carver and Pardew, if he heads down the road, hamstrung by recruitment. Except it is too early for that, so Newcastle muddle on.

They have signed 14 players in the last three transfer windows. Only the right-back Daryl Janmaat, who scored his second goal of the season, becoming top scorer, when Newcastle trailed to two goals from Watford’s Odion Ighalo, has been an outright success. Ayoze Perez has also done well, but most of the new players have not shone and 2015 has been a horrible year.

When it was put to McClaren that the display was similar to others throughout the year, he tellingly replied: “You can see that and write that. I haven’t seen it. We come into a new experience and we all think, ‘Phwoar, let’s go’,  then suddenly it is, ‘Woah, what’s happening there?’

“It’s a lot of things to work on. Mentality, history and, of course, the present. We have to turn it round, but I still say this is a good squad, with good players in there.

“To win you need belief. That first win would ease a lot of things but there’s a lot of clubs saying that. That adds to the tension and pressure and fuels the criticism we are going to receive but no, I don’t think we have an identity yet.

“I have seen enough in those first four games, the attitude and the spirit. At times we were a little bit naive in terms of losing our shape and wanting to do things.

“There’s enough in that dressing room. We have seen enough not to panic and to stay calm. There is no crisis but only we can turn it round.”

It is Chelsea and Manchester City in the Premier League next. There is no suggestion of respite.

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