The last thing that a team in the midst of a relegation dogfight needs is to have their character questioned, but that’s exactly what has happened at Newcastle United this week with boss Steve McClaren calling them “the most frustrating side I’ve ever worked with”.
McClaren, who has also managed the likes of Newcastle’s North East neighbours Middlesbrough, FC Twente, Wolfsburg, Derby and England, spoke of a huge “character flaw” amongst his players as his side head into a crucial clash at Stoke City.
“Talent is not enough. You have to perform consistently, individually and collectively, he said. “You have to have certain characteristics – being hard to beat, solid, doing the work, be disciplined, do the small things.
“But inconsistency is a character flaw which we have got to come to terms with and put right.”
Ironically many of McClaren’s managerial reigns have been blighted with poor performances. At Derby he started brightly, but after a run of two wins in thirteen games they feel from champions-elect to outside of the Play Off places. He was duly sacked.
In the infamous ‘wally with a brolly’ debacle, England lost haplessly in Croatia and thus failed to qualify for the European Championships of 2008, and now Newcastle sit 18th in the Premier League having won just six of 26 matches. Their misery has been confounded by a miserable record on the road, which has seen them lost 10 of 13 away matches and conceding nearly three goals per game into the bargain.
Tonight’s hosts Stoke will not exactly be quaking in their boots at the thought of welcoming the Magpies to the Brittania Stadium.
Where has it all gone wrong?
Despite significant investment in the summer and the January transfer window, McClaren has failed to find a winning formula at St James Park. Or perhaps, in reality, he has: Newcastle sit twelfth in the ‘home table’ with 17 points – the same as Liverpool and more than Everton and Crystal Palace.
But it’s on their travels that Newcastle have struggled – a return of W2 D1 L10 GF7 GA31 doesn’t require any further investigation, and when there is such disparity between home and away form the manager’s tactics have to be questioned. Scoring 0.5 goals per game and conceding 2.4 on average is a recipe for disaster.
So McClaren has to take the blame for his side’s troubles that are being exacerbated by their away form, and it will be interesting to see if it is this, ultimately, that sees them slide through the dreaded relegation trapdoor.