Saturday, 13 June 2015

Carver Axe Another Step on Road to Recovery

Steve McClaren's arrival as Newcastle United Head Coach and his addition to the new-look club board has created a large sense of optimism on Tyneside.

McClaren's high standing within the game, passion for the region, and the club's willingness to increase the Head Coach's influence are positive steps on the walk away from the misery of recent years. 
New era: Steve McClaren's arrival ended the Pardew era at Newcastle United

But perhaps a more poignant step was the dismissal of beleaguered coaches John Carver and Steve Stone. A few months ago it would have been unthinkable for Mike Ashley to pay out 10 years worth of contract to remove members of staff and it was widely thought, that unlike Patrick Vieira or Michael Laudrup, Steve McClaren would be more than willing to work alongside the current backroom staff - thus saving the owner some more pennies. 

Yet the former Middlesbrough Manager outlined his demands and prior to his appointment came the surprising yet welcome news of the coaching reshuffle. Ashley's Carver gamble had failed to pay off, and for Newcastle to truly move forward on the pitch anyone with a brain could see that the interim had to be out. 

However merely having a brain hasn't served Newcastle United well in recent times and it was expected that Ashley would continue his low-cost empire with Carver stepping back into his assistant manager post and Steve Stone continuing to put the cones out. 

Newcastle's inadequacies on the field of play have largely been down to poor tactics, selection, and training ground preparations. The player's had long stopped responding to Carver and Stone, almost as soon as Alan Pardew departed the club. Negativity seared through the club like a disease, and the players were carrying the ailment each and every week.

Unresponsive: Newcastle players failed spectacularly under John Carver

Of course, as Carver stated numerous times, you can only work with what you are given but he was given a half decent squad of players who had beaten Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester City under his predecessor and were looking up rather than down at the turn of the year. 

The be all and end all is that John Carver was simply not good enough; he was found wanting big time and Newcastle United almost paid the ultimate price. Sympathy for the Geordie who loved the club soon went out the window with the whimpering in the derby and clueless displays at Everton, Leicester, QPR, and at St James' Park. 

Ridiculous interviews and statements, turning on the players and playing the weekly Sir Bobby Robson card was bringing more shame on Toon fans already embarrassed enough. It was a case of "careful what you wish for" for those Newcastle fans delighted with Pardew's exit. 

Not good enough: John Carver simply didn't have what it took to succeed as Head Coach

The demise was spectacular but Newcastle survived and the club got their man at last in McClaren. Carver staying on would have kept that lingering failing around the players; who can now move out of the dark shadows under the new regime. Steve McClaren can now fully put his own stamp on the place, and quickly stated his intent to investigate the horrendous injury situation.

The new Head Coach knows the area, knows what the fans want and expect, and hopes to bring some good times back to St James' Park. It was positive to see him added to the board of directors and hopefully he can work with Graham Carr to recruit some quality for the first team. Lee Charnley's cringe-worthy declaration that Newcastle United would now essentially "try" to win at football was another positive notion on the back of Mike Ashley's pre-West Ham statement of intent.

All we want is a club that tries, that replicates the passion of those that arrive in droves at the 52,000 seater stadium every other week. The hierarchy are certainly now making the right noises, but as ever we will believe it when we see it. One thing for certain is that Steve McClaren is determined to deliver on his part in a job he has coveted since Steve Gibson pulled the plug on it in 2004.

Road to recovery: Newcastle can now move on under the new regime

With Carver and Stone now out of the picture, Newcastle can shake off the last of the Alan Pardew era and start the long road to recovery.

Friday, 5 June 2015

The Leopard Won't Change His Spots

Mike Ashley's treatment of Ryan Taylor and Jonas Gutierrez, not even 7 days after the latter had almost single-handedly dragged Newcastle United over the Premier League safety line, was a stark reminder of the shame of life on Tyneside under the owner.

Having a laugh: Ashley's latest exploits have supporters reeling again

Many had been left feeling optimistic of a brighter Mike Ashley/Newcastle United relationship following the Londoner's out-of-the-blue interview to Sky Sports before the 2-0 win over West Ham on "Survival Sunday". Ashley spoke of his regret and admitted his blame, promising fans a new intent to "win something" and punch above weight.

But the sceptics were right to be sceptical of his remarkable appearance and words of encouragement, as he quickly reminded us all of his distasteful capabilities by instructing his outgoing interim Manager to relieve two professionals of their jobs in one telephone call.

Two men who have for over 6 years served the black and white cause with great pride and won their place in Geordie folklore through individual and collective effort and achievement. Two men hugely popular with supporters, players, and staff dropped by the club with the greatest disrespect.

The messenger: Carver uncomfortably delivered release news to the players

The decision to release the two out-of-contract players was realistic and largely accepted, but the manner in which the news was delivered was quite unbelievable. Ryan Taylor had unfortunately shown little in the latter stages of the season to suggest that he can play at the level required but this is a man who is a consummate professional with great affection for Newcastle fans, and gave 100% whenever he pulled on the shirt.

As for Jonas, anyone who witnessed the final game of the season at St James Park can see the mutual love between player and supporters. Gutierrez, finally restored to the left of midfield, took the game to West Ham and created a fairytale ending on the pitch. For me, he had shown enough beforehand to warrant an extended stay on Tyneside in a threadbare squad.

Gutierrez's return to the playing field was the most remarkable and emotional story of the Premier League season, and huge credit to Ryan Taylor for overcoming awful injuries. Fans will never forget "over the wall" and spectacular goals from Taylor; Jonas' debut, spiderman, his character, fun, and those runs down the left. Their loyalty and commitment to the cause; promotion, consolidation, 5th place. A heroic finale for the Argentine. 

Hero: Gutierrez's final day exploits was a fairytale ending at St James' Park

Jonas was very accepting of his release, suggesting long before the season's completion. The poor way in which the club handled his illness was the beginning of the end and his celebration following his goal told us all we needed to know about how he feels about Newcastle's hierarchy. Would it surprise you if Ashley and Lee Charnley's method of release was stubbornness against the Argentine? Not a nice though but certainly believable. 

For this is something Newcastle United fans have long been used to; negativity and embarrassment around every corner, Mike Ashley somehow finding ways to keep the club in the headlines for the wrong reasons.

The club we love is used as an advertising platform for a budget retail company, sponsored by pay-day lenders, and ran by a man who openly admitted to lying to supporters, humiliated Club legends, and renamed a historic stadium to that of a shop that sells Donnay socks. As you know, I could go on.

The point is, that despite the positivity that may have been felt regarding Ashley's interview, he is still Mike Ashley. For the past 8 years we have endured the torment that comes as the territory of his ownership. How could we feasibly trust what he has said? The treatment of these players just compounds the mistrust.

Cult heroes: Gutierrez and Taylor have long-endeared themselves to supporters

What made the whole thing more ridiculous was the supposedly made up interview attributed to Fabricio Coloccini. As if the club thought that Jonas' best mate wouldn't let on that he didn't say what was printed on the official website. We only laugh because we are sick of crying.

Dennis Wise, Joe Kinnear (twice), Wonga, Sports Direct Arena, selling players with no replacements, selling Manager's with no replacement, lying to fans, Keegangate, and now this - things of these ilk cannot rear their head if Mike Ashley wants to reclaim any faith and integrity and show the ambition that has never been there. 

Challenging in the top half, going for trophies - it's a far cry from what we have become accustomed to at St James' Park. If the last few years of turmoil have been the building of an underbelly then why has it taken our esteemed leader until the lowest point to show that he can actually speak? Fans would have been ever so slightly more understanding if the club would just communicate and let us know what was going on from time to time!

Increased ambition: Can Charnley and Ashley put words into action?

If the club is to bolt the horse and punch above the weight then, as our wise Interim would often say, the proof will be in the pudding. I would love to believe that the intention is there, but this is Mike Ashley's Newcastle United we are talking about and anything could happen. 

To Ryan Taylor and Jonas Gutierrez, thank you.