Newcastle's problems lie deeper than manager Steve McClaren

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Following the dismal 3-0 loss to Leicester City at the weekend, speculation has intensified that Steve McClaren’s short time on Tyneside could already be drawing to a close, if results don’t improve.

AC Milan legend Clarence Seeforf and ex-Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers have been linked with succeeding the former England manager since the humiliating loss at St James’ Park. Jamie Vardy extended his consecutive goal-scoring run to ten straight games during the Premier League leaders' victory.

Is it McClaren’s fault? For that matter, was it John Carver’s? Alan Pardew’s?


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Well, Carver was out of his depth since we’re on the subject, but the problems in the club go a lot deeper than the man in the dug-out.

It’s become commonplace in the north east to blame chairman Mike Ashley, so this article won’t startle many. But it’s worth exploring what the Sports Direct tycoon has exactly done to shackle his managers and suffocate the club.

Ashley is a classic case of a businessman running a football club. He is not a football man, despite what he may well think. His recruitment policy and those he entrusts to execute it, are both flawed.

He also appears intent on controlling every aspect of operations, and has done so vicariously through thinly-veiled appointments like Dennis Wise and Joe Kinnear.

Toon need club legends

Would Newcastle have signed Alan Shearer back in 1996 if Ashley was in charge? I honestly don’t think so. He probably would have opted for someone like Patrice Loko instead. Look him up if you’re struggling with that reference.

Ashley’s treatment of Kevin Keegan in his second spell as manager also indicated he doesn’t like to be challenged and he isn’t interested in individuals who have been important to the club. That’s a quick way to alienate the fans, but it’s also pure stupidity to believe he knows better than someone of Keegan’s illustrious standing.

After all, Keegan drove the club to its most successful period in recent memory. One cannot make that judgement in the form of any trophies, but Newcastle were genuine title contenders and arguably the most exciting team in the league in that time. That bold, attacking play is what brought the 50,000 plus Geordies to life and made the club special.

Sir Bobby Robson continued that good work (we’ll ignore Kenny Dalglish and Ruud Gullit), once again showing an understanding for the culture in the north-east and most importantly, like Keegan, had full control on transfers.

Unfortunately, Sir Bobby is no longer with us and unavailable to help. But why wouldn’t Ashley want Keegan’s help as a director of football? He has a proven track record for buying players and creating free-flowing attacking sides and on top of that, the fans adore him.

Shearer would be another prudent acquisition to the club in some form. Sure, he’s not proven in the transfer market or in any backroom capacities, to be brutally honest. But he understands the club and resonates with the fans; I don’t think Ashley quite understands just how important those factors are.

Will we ever see a Keegan and Shearer partnership behind the scenes for the Magpies? I would sincerely doubt it while Ashley has his way. He’s proven he wants his men to carry out what he wants. He doesn’t want, nor does he think he needs any help.

Poor transfer deals

Six months on from his last-day-of-the-season interview, what’s changed? Yes, he spent some money in the summer, but that was money they had saved in previous windows and it’s fair to say now the purchases were short-sighted.

Those players were bought for the future; whether that be with Newcastle or money they can generate down the line. Ashley’s transfer team didn’t actually address what the team needs – only a manager can do that.

With the success of Yohan Cabaye, Ashley got carried away with his French experiment and chief scout Graham Carr has embarked on a hit, and mainly miss, torrent of deals since.

Massaido Haidara, Yohan Gouffran and Florian Thauvin are three uncapped Frenchmen that reportedly cost the club just under a combined £15 million. Aaron Cresswell, Nathan Redmond and Dele Alli cost a combined £11m. Or, Gerard Deulofeu, Jay Rodriguez and Ben Davies, who were bought for a combined £15.5m. But Ashley thinks he is smarter than those deals.

McClaren may not be the saviour every Newcastle United fan craves, but just remember, he is a shackled man. If Arsene Wenger took over at St James’ tomorrow, Newcastle wouldn’t all of a sudden pop the ball around like Arsenal. The Toon are not good enough, and Ashley’s willingness to stand still and follow a novice transfer model are primary reasons why.

Where will Newcastle finish this season and why? Give YOUR opinion in the comment box below!

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