Steve McClaren has fallen short as Newcastle head coach '“ will Mike Ashley act?
Steve McClaren admitted his players he 'fell short' at Goodison Park.
He also said Newcastle United’s 3-0 defeat to Everton on Wednesday night was “unacceptable”. It was.
But much of this season has been unacceptable.
Not that you’d know it from McClaren’s post-game comments.
Too much praise has been lavished on far too many mediocre performances.
If McClaren is seemingly happy when his players break sweat, is it any wonder that the club is mired in the Premier League’s relegation zone and sinking deeper into trouble?
McClaren, let’s be clear, has also fallen short as head coach.
Too often this season, his team has looked ill-equipped and ill-prepared, and Goodison Park was another case in point.
Newcastle had to soak up Everton’s early pressure, quieten the crowd and use the pace of Andros Townsend, Georginio Wijnaldum and Ayoze Perez on the break.
But where there should have been diligence, there was sloppiness.
Soon after taking charge of United, McClaren talked of the need to address the team’s defensive problems.
Yet eight months later they still haven’t been tackled.
Admittedly, McClaren has been helped by injuries and a lack of squad depth – he hasn’t got a fit left-back for Saturday’s home game against West Bromwich Albion – but that can’t excuse some of the defending we have witnessed this season.
And the brainless late penalties conceded against Everton summed it up.
You can’t tell me that some of the teams in the top half of the table have better defenders than 18th-placed Newcastle.
Had United signed a left-back on loan in last month’s transfer window, it would have been a help, but the the answers the questions that are being asked of the team must come from within.
That’s where McClaren and his coaching staff come in.
I watched them try to implement their vision for the team in sweltering temperatures across the United States in last summer.
McClaren wanted his team to play from the back and attack down the flanks with pace and purpose, but we’ve only seen glimpses of that work over the past few months.
The club has spent almost £80million on its squad since the end of last season, and there has been no discernible return on the pitch.
McClaren has talked a lot about “progress” this season, but we haven’t seen much, if any, progress at Newcastle.
There’s been startling progress at Leicester City under Claudio Ranieri, their new manager. The club, which was battling relegation last season along with United, leads the Premier League table.
That’s truly remarkable.
Also, look at newly-promoted Watford under Quique Flores, appointed last summer.
McClaren asked to be judged after 10 games after his own appointment.
The 54-year-old, sacked at Derby County last summer, soon asked for more time, but judgement day can’t be long in coming now he has a stronger hand following the club’s £28.5million January investment.
A sombre McClaren talked about a the need for a “reaction” against West Brom in Everton’s Press room late on Wednesday night.
“We need a reaction on Saturday now, individually and collectively. A few players didn’t show their quality, which is why we’ve lost.
“The attitude has been different class in the last couple of months.
“We had bad results against Leicester and Crystal Palace, where that was questioned, but since then we’ve had a perfect reaction.”
Different class? Perfect reaction? A glance at the league table tells you otherwise.
McClaren, not for the first time this season, finds himself under intense pressure. With a new multi-billion pound Premier League TV kicking in next season, relegation is unthinkable for Newcastle.
With 14 games left this season, time is fast running out for United.
Anything other than three points from the West Brom game will be unacceptable.
And owner Mike Ashley knows that he if a managerial change is to be made, it must be done sooner rather than later.