No rallying call or big speeches when Steve McClaren took Newcastle training '“ his dream is now a nightmare
And so it goes on.
Steve McClaren is still the head coach of Newcastle United.
And he was due back at the relegation-threatened club’s training ground today to continue preparations for Monday night’s game against Leicester City.
McClaren’s days at St James’s Park are numbered.
He could be gone today. Or it might be tomorrow. Or the day after.
Few expect him to be in the dugout at the King Power Stadium, though everything is seemingly dependent on the club’s ongoing search for a successor.
In the meantime, it’s death by a thousand cuts for McClaren, who has lost the supporters.
Has he also lost the players? And the media?
McClaren’s team failed to make a convincing case, or indeed any kind of case, for him to stay against Bournemouth on Saturday.
Newcastle were out-played, out-fought and out-thought by an energetic and enthusiastic team which was everything that United weren’t at St James’s Park.
McClaren’s position is untenable. That won’t change.
And managing director Lee Charnley knows this.
McClaren, appointed to the board last summer, was not invited to the board-level meeting in York on Monday.
That told its own story.
However, Newcastle are unwilling to dismiss McClaren until a successor has been identified and secured.
That could take some time, and time is something United don’t have right now.
Supporters, understandably, are exasperated.
They want decisive action, a decision. And now.
And McClaren must plod on as the club sounds out potential successors, among them Rafa Benitez.
But it’s hard to see what useful work he can do at the training ground in the meantime.
Managers find it hard enough to get the attention of Premier League footballers at the best of times, so McClaren has been left in an impossible limbo.
Not knowing whether he’ll be gone in 24 hours, what can he say or do? Awkward.
There were no big speeches at the training ground yesterday.
There were no rallying calls.
Instead, there was an attempt at a normal day’s training.
There has been no public comment from United, but the message from within the club has been that it’s “business as usual”.
Only business has been anything but usual given the question mark above the head of McClaren, who, presumably, just wants to be backed or sacked by his fellow board members.
He, like the fans, wants certainty.
This was supposed to be McClaren’s last frontline job in football.
The former England coach felt he could guide the club to a top-eight finish and end its long wait for silverware over the course of his three-year contract.
Yet just nine months after joining Newcastle, it’s apparent that that dream will never become reality.
Instead, it’s turned into a nightmare.
The club’s problems aren’t all of McClaren’s making. Far from it.
Charnley and chief scout Graham Carr have also made mistakes, and many supporters want them to follow McClaren out of the door, if not now, then in the summer.
The job, one of the toughest in English football, has also consumed bigger names than McClaren.
United has been known as an unmanageable club for decades, the notable exceptions to the rule being Sir Bobby Robson and Kevin Keegan.
Chris Hughton also deserves an honourable mention for his careful stewardship.
Newcastle need some careful stewardship in the final 10 games of the season.
No incoming manager, not even Jose Mourinho, could guarantee Premier League survival.
But what United can do is increase their chances of staying up.
With McClaren in charge, a second relegation to the Championship looks inevitable.