Steven McClaren: Newcastle United manager safe for now but clamour grows after humbling home defeat

The club’s managing director, Lee Charnley, has spent £120m on 17 players in the last four transfer windows since he was promoted to the position

Martin Hardy
Sunday 06 March 2016 23:27
Newcastle United manager Steve McClaren reacts to Bournemouth scoring a goal
Newcastle United manager Steve McClaren reacts to Bournemouth scoring a goal

Steve McClaren is scheduled to take training at Newcastle on Monday morning, despite a tumultuous weekend in which his side lost again and he was expected to be relieved of his duties.

During Newcastle’s woeful 3-1 defeat at St James’ Park by Bournemouth, the Newcastle support turned on McClaren for the first time, chanting that he was getting sacked in the morning.

Former Leicester manager Nigel Pearson is an outside call to replace McClaren, should he be axed, but that has yet to happen.

The club’s managing director, Lee Charnley, was at the stadium on Saturday, alongside the owner Mike Ashley’s chief PR officer, Keith Bishop.

Charnley has spent £120m on 17 players in the last four transfer windows since he was promoted to the position. There remains a possibility that Derek Llambias, the man he replaced, could yet return to the club in some capacity.

Llambias is a long-term ally of Ashley, who is expected to become more involved in the process of trying to keep the football club in the Premier League.

McClaren still believes he can turn the club’s fortunes around but, after eight months in charge, thinks the complicated internal structure cannot work. The head coach has a place on the football board, along with former captain Bob Moncur, but Graham Carr, effectively a sporting director, and Charnley make the key decisions.

Aleksandar Mitrovic, left, in action during Newcastle’s defeat at home by Bournemouth

McClaren has fought for a commanding central defender and goalscoring centre-forward since he took control of the playing staff last summer.

Neither has arrived and it is believed a number of potential signings could not be concluded during the January transfer window. Newcastle failed to complete a £24m deal for Saido Berahino and were left to scramble around and sign Seydou Doumbia on loan from Roma until the end of the season.

The player has so far been deemed so unfit that Emmanuel Rivière, who has scored one goal in 25 Premier League games since arriving for £6m in the summer of 2014, was preferred to him in the debilitating loss to Bournemouth.

He was withdrawn at half-time and replaced by Aleksandar Mitrovic, the £13m summer signing from Anderlecht who has scored five league goals and currently ranks as the club’s top-scoring forward.

That was the backdrop for a cantankerous afternoon in which the mood of the Newcastle support changed dramatically. Steven Taylor scored an own goal before efforts from Josh King and Charlie Daniels (separating one of scant consolation from Ayoze Perez) secured a fully justified victory for Eddie Howe’s promoted team.

McClaren said afterwards that he would not quit and he retained the desire to be in charge for Newcastle’s next game, which is at Leicester next Monday.

“I’m very disappointed,” he said. “That was definitely a poor performance and going down material. The only positive is that we have 10 games to go.

“We have got to find the fighters in the team and the performance today did not epitomise that. We cannot play like that and hope to stay up, but we are fortunate that we’ve got 10 games and that’s enough. It’s a four-team league now and we play everyone around us.

“There was a certain edginess and you could see that in our play. We lost our shape. Normally we are a good attacking team, but today we were poor on the ball. You can only say that the pressure got to them. I can’t see any positives but we have to stick together – as a staff and as a team – and fight.”

Ashley’s controversial structure and recruitment policy, which sees him prefer to buy players aged 25 or younger to ensure a resale value, has proven to be one of folly. It remains to be seen whether he will alter the structure that so limits the involvement of the man actually picking the team – in this case McClaren.

In the short term, Newcastle are potentially heading for the second relegation of Ashley’s tenure. The febrile atmosphere at St James’ Park on Saturday saw Moussa Sissoko jeered when he was taken off. The crowd similarly turned on McClaren. “As a coach you get through this,” he reflected. “There are ups and downs. It’s not nice, but I can fully understand it after that.”

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