Steven McClaren has been in charge of Newcastle United for just four weeks, and though it’ll take quite some doing to match the number of controversial headlines made by his two most recent predecessors, he seems up for the challenge.
[ MORE: Saturday’s transfer rumor roundup ]
Following Saturday’s announced that the Magpies had signed 24-year-old Dutch midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum for a club record fee of $23 million, McClaren thought it the right time to make his first bold proclamation, in the same way Alan Pardew and John Carver had regularly done before him.
McClaren, on Newcastle’s prospects for the upcoming season, from the Guardian:
“The remit here is very, very clear. But it’s much better to be sitting down with the players saying we’ve got to win something and get in that top eight than saying: ‘We’ve got to stay in this league’.”
“Newcastle’s in good shape. Most places you come in and you’ve got a lot of work to do but, internally, this is better than I thought it might be. We’ve got a good squad, some good young players. Sometimes you come in and you’ve got four or five 30-year-olds you’ve got to get out but not here. If you’ve seen the plans here and what’s ahead – what the squad will be like in a year and three windows on – it’s a good situation.”
On one hand, McClaren has to win over the fans at St James’ Park from day one, as they’re still feeling battered and bruised having watched the last 36 months of losing and unattractive soccer on display by the Magpies. Showing a bit of ambition to take the club to new heights — something that was rarely the case under Pardew and Carver — is one way of getting the Geordie nation on Carver’s side.
On the other hand, Newcastle finishing eighth in the upcoming Premier League season is laughable. Exactly one team — Queens Park Rangers (73), who finished 20th out of 20 teams — conceded more goals than Newcastle’s 63 during the 2014-15 season. And what has the Newcastle hierarchy, led by stingy owner Mike Ashley, done about it? Nada. Zip. Zilch.
Wijnaldum, while a solid signing and one that will inject a bit of entertainment value back into Newcastle United this season, goes down as the club’s first signing of the summer. While there’s still plenty of time left to overhaul the Newcastle backline, gelling an entirely new group of players takes time at the beginning of a season, and that’s something a 15th-place-finishing side aiming for eighth just doesn’t have.