Could tabloid talk on Austin, Coloccini, McClaren turn Toon around?
Newcastle United is one of those footballing goldfish bowls that cannot break its pesky habit of making headlines. Since allowing Alan Pardew to bring in extra income by having him join Crystal Palace over the Christmas/New Year period, the Magpies have won just two out of 15 under caretaker/interim coach John Carver.
Succeeding the dignified Pardew on January 1st, Geordie native Carver has picked up a paltry nine points from 42 available. That explains why the Toon Army have witnessed their team slide down the Premier League table, and how Newcastle now hold odds of 50/1 (from 16/1) with Coral for a top half finish.
At the time of Pardew’s departure, our football experts touched on how strange it was letting a manager leave St James’ Park for a side below them, but just three-and-a-half months later Palace have climbed clear of trouble and above the Magpies.
The players he left behind on Tyneside, meanwhile, have not performed for one of the Toon Army’s own in Carver. Maybe it’s that ugly word ‘interim’ in his title, but managerial stats of less than 15 per cent fall way below of the standard.
Carver has talked tough about summer clear-outs and moving players on, but he himself is virtually certain not to continue in his current capacity at St James’ beyond this term.
What is Newcastle’s solution to the coaching conundrum? Former Middlesbrough manager Steve McClaren, now at Championship promotion contenders Derby County, is still strongly linked with returning to the north-east.
Ex-England coach McClaren seems to blow hot and cold; he did a magnificent job on Teesside, taking Boro to a UEFA Cup final in 2006 following League Cup glory in 2004. Then the disastrous Euro 2008 qualification campaign ended with him infamously being branded ‘the wally with the brolly’.
Keen to rebuild his career thereafter, McClaren moved abroad, steering FC Twente to the Eredivisie title in 2010 (complete with dodgy Dutch accent, see below).
Spells at Wolfsburg, Nottingham Forest and a return to the Netherlands didn’t work out for him, though it’s his sterling work at Pride Park, admittedly in the Championship, and previous links to the area that appear to have attracted Mike Ashley.
The Toon Army did not take to ‘Cockney villain’ Pardew, and their memories will doubtlessly become conveniently long when it comes to McClaren should he get the job.
With touted tabloid talk on him looking like a gamble which risks the wrath of a notoriously tribal, but staunchly loyal fanbase, gossip column links to Charlie Austin may be more welcome.
QPR’s top scorer has an impressive return of 17 strikes in 30 Premier League outings in his maiden top-flight campaign, while the Magpies have failed to find the net in four of their last five.
It is rumoured any Austin arrival is to be a sweetener that will help persuade McClaren, who worked with the player in his previous capacity as a coach at Loftus Road under Harry Redknapp, to move to the club.
Current Toon number nine Papiss Cisse’s lengthy suspension for an unsavoury spitting incident with Jonny Evans (pictured above) has not helped Carver’s cause with him unavailable since early March. There has also been speculation surrounding the Senegal striker’s fitness, so replacing him may be best in the long term.
With a fee of £10m reportedly quoted for Austin, he fits into the Newcastle business strategy of buying at modest prices and then selling on proven performers for profit that has become pervasive under Ashley. Graham Carr could hardly have an easier scouting assignment than watching the Hoops hitman in west London during the Magpies’ penultimate Premier League game of the campaign.
All-rounder Austin could prove worthy of Geordie attacking idols Jackie Milburn and Alan Shearer, and this is one potential summer switch to watch out for. Carver, meanwhile, could still make an important change which involves the club captaincy, in what may be his final act as boss.
In a recent interview, the temporary boss touted Netherlands right back Daryl Janmaat to take over the armband from ex-Argentina centre half Fabricio Coloccini, following his sending off against Everton. “Leadership is something that has to be addressed by the football club,” said Carver.
“We need to give the captaincy to somebody who is responsible, who is a leader. The players will follow a leader, and they have to have discipline on and off the pitch. Captains have to lead by example.
“When you are captain of this football club you have to do things right. I would definitely review the situation in the summer. I’d be tempted to make Daryl captain next season because he’s a proper leader.
“He’s got character, strength, he’s good around the dressing room. He has a good presence around the place. Whatever you ask him to do he’ll do it.”
Coloccini, now 33, has one more year left on his Toon contract, but he has missed six matches through injury and a ban. Janmaat, meanwhile, is one of the success stories of another underachieving campaign for Newcastle, and has World Cup experience after being part of Louis van Gaal’s Dutch squad that finished third in Brazil last summer.
This leadership issue at the Magpies is more food for thought than anything concrete, because of the culture of uncertainty surrounding Carver himself. Whether the Toon Army would connect more with a Dutch full back than an ageing Argentine centre half as their club’s captain remains to be seen.