Newcastle United’s supporters have earned the descriptor “always-proud” over the years, but it’s front office has dipped into “once-proud” category with a series of embarrassing seasons.
And that’s what makes it so tricky to decide whether new boss Steve McClaren deserves the sack after just 14 games in charge of the Northeast side.
[ MATCH RECAP: Crystal Palace 5-1 Newcastle United ]
Despite embattled owner Mike Ashley opening his purse strings this summer — adding Georginio Wijnaldum, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Chancel Mbemba — McClaren has posted a 2W-4D-8L start to life in the Premier League. The wins have come against new boys Norwich City and Bournemouth, and McClaren has seen his team dispatched from the League Cup by a Championship side.
The 54-year-old earned a shot back at the top largely on the merits of his apprenticeship under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and an Eredivisie crown with Twente in 2009.
After poor, short spells at Wolfsburg and Nottingham Forest, McClaren helped his star rise with Derby County from 2013-15. But he never was able to push the club over the top, fading down the stretch last season.
The Premier League is a win-now entity, and Newcastle is well behind the pace of its top-flight brethren. It’s defending is miserable, and the club has no answers for teams that attack with vigor (See the five goals allowed to Sergio Aguero, last week’s 3-0 loss to Leicester City and today’s embarrassment against former boss Alan Pardew).
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Even former NUFC outcast Luuk De Jong, who failed on Tyneside but is revitalized in Holland, is throwing shade at his brother Siem’s side.
Maybe it’s time to change🎶 #crynew
— Luuk de Jong (@LuukdeJong9) November 28, 2015
Back in the relegation zone, Newcastle has to enter crisis mode after this aimless run through a span of fixtures that demanding points. Yes, they dominated at Sunderland and lost on an unearned red card, but the Magpies also beat Bournemouth despite getting thoroughly out-classed.
With Liverpool, Tottenham and Everton in three of the Magpies’ next four matches — and raise your hand if you think McClaren will out-manage Mauricio Pochettino, Jurgen Klopp or Roberto Martinez — Newcastle needs to plan for two relegation scraps against Aston Villa and West Brom.
Now could be time to put a caretaker manager into the fray, and find someone who’s helmed a proper relegation fight in the Premier League. Because when even Sam Allardyce is finding points from a substandard group of players at Sunderland, your rival, it’s hard to imagine this can look much worse.
But going back to years of selling their best players — Yohan Cabaye, Andy Carroll, Demba Ba — and letting second-rate (and worse) managers languish in charge, can it really be put on McClaren? That’s the question Ashley has to ask.
Given their schedule, Newcastle has little chance to be out of the relegation battle come New Year’s Day. So who do the Magpies want leading them out come 2016?