Do Derby failures make McClaren damaged goods with Toon in turmoil?
On February 24, Derby County were top of the Championship, holding a five-point cushion on an automatic promotion place and looked destined for the Premier League.
Rams head coach Steve McClaren saw his charges cruising and seemingly set to erase memories of a play-off final loss the previous May to a smash and grab QPR at Wembley.
And then the wheels fell off at Pride Park. Derby won just two of their remaining 13 fixtures, and these were against rock-bottom Blackpool and fellow relegation fodder Wigan Athletic.
Meanwhile, a common and consistent tabloid thread has been McClaren moving to Newcastle United as Alan Pardew’s successor, with interim Magpies manager John Carver struggling to handle the rigors of the Premier League.
Supporting a club that always somehow ends up excelling itself in producing unscripted drama more unique and original than the writers of Geordie Shore could ever dream up, the Toon Army are hurting because their team are in turmoil and two points above the bottom three.
Eight defeats in a row have been compounded by Carver (pictured below) in accusations Newcastle centre back Mike Williamson deliberately got himself sent off in the latest loss to resurgent Leicester City.
Rounding on his own players like this only illustrates how unsuitable and simply not cut out for management caretaker coach Carver is. Relegation is a real prospect for the Magpies, and at 5/1 with Coral for the drop they must be considered by punters.
Wearside neighbours and bitter rivals Sunderland (odds-on at 8/11 to go down) face the Foxes (also 5/1) at home in mid-May in what looks like being a winner stays up contest of massive magnitude. The Toon Army know their team have favourable fixtures to come. but are they capable of turning around their dismal form?
Persistent press speculation has contrived not just to ruin Newcastle’s season, but may have had an impact in the East Midlands. McClaren is a man desperate for success and to shed his “wally with the brolly” moniker, which those selfsame tabloids gave him after flopping as England national boss.
The latest reports claim controversial Magpies owner Mike Ashley has approached his top target about returning to the northeast for the final three games of this campaign. Toon Army opinions of former Middlebsrough manager McClaren would count for nothing, if the fact that almost all previous protests have fallen on dear ears is any indicator.
But what would Newcastle’s staunchly loyal supporters make of McClaren? Conveniently long memories of him bringing success to Teesside in the form of a League Cup triumph (pictured above) and subsequent run to the UEFA Cup final – the kind of which Magpies fans crave to experience themselves – may be top of mind.
While there has been something of a revision in media perceptions of the Toon Army’s attitude, based on banners seen at recent games calling for signs of discernible effort rather than results necessarily, it was a different story during McClaren’s time at the Riverside.
Under one of their own in Sir Bobby Robson, Newcastle joined Boro in Europe, but looked enviously at the Teesside team’s trophy and against all odds tilt at a continental crown, stopped only by UEFA Cup/Europa League experts Sevilla.
Cynical Geordies may take a more cerebral approach. McClaren’s only tangible success in the last decade was breaking Ajax and PSV Eindhoven’s stranglehold on Dutch domestic football when he steered FC Twente to the Eredivisie title in 2009/10:
His subsequent four changes of job have resulted in dismissal and failure. It does raise a valid question of whether McClaren is damaged goods, and taking the Toon on may just be another piece of poor judgment on his part.
Being Magpies manager is in many ways a thankless task. McClaren needs to be aware of Ashley’s business mentality towards running the club, if he is thinking of taking over either now or for next season.
He will be an indirect victim of any success, should there be some, as proven performers shall be sold for a profit. The rife speculation about his future notwithstanding, McClaren may have taken Derby as far as they can go with his players choking when they needed to be strong.
Newcastle are massively odds-on at 1/9 to stay up because they battle West Bromwich Albion – to all intents and purposes safe on 40 points, if not yet in mathematical fact – at home next before travelling to QPR, who could already be down by then.
With such winnable games coming up and a missed opportunity to rue respectively, both the Magpies and McClaren can only better their lot, and maybe will show some ambition and prove the point that they are not flops together.