Steve McClaren's time is up at Newcastle whatever the decision of Lee Charnley
It's the end for Steve McClaren, isn't it?
There’s surely no way back from this.
Newcastle United’s head coach simply has to go after this 3-1 defeat.
McClaren’s position is untenable after one of the most abject displays in recent memory.
If ever the club needed a performance and a result it was on Saturday.
A poorly-timed statement, purportedly from Newcastle’s players, backing McClaren was issued before the game.
It claimed that McClaren had the “full respect of the players” and vowed to “fight every game” to keep the club in the Premier League.
What United needed was a statement on the pitch from its players.
But they never looked like beating Bournemouth, a club which is now all but safe.And Newcastle – who spent more than any other in Europe on transfers in January – are now competing with Sunderland and Norwich City to finish 17th in the league.
The loss to Bournemouth underlined why the club is in such a mess.
McClaren’s side looked ill-prepared and ill-equipped against a team which was playing Championship football last season.
United were out-played, out-fought and out-thought at St James’s Park, and not for the first time under McClaren.
It didn’t look like the team was playing to keep the 54-year-old in a job.
Bournemouth were better in every department.
They played with pace and purpose. There was movement. They worked for each other.
Their opener had an element of fortune – Steven Taylor inadvertently turned a Joshua King cross past Rob Elliot in the 28th minute – but they had earnt it.
Jack Colback gave the ball away and Max Gradel’s persistence saw King take the ball in space on the left.
Taylor attempted to make amends before the break, but his effort was deflected wide.
And it wasn’t until the 64th minute that Bournemouth goalkeeper Artur Boruc was tested.
Daryl Janmaat had a fierce shot, but Boruc was equal to it.
Eddie Howe’s side were equal to everything that came their way and King added a second in the 70th minute.
McClaren got one thing right. He recalled Ayoze Perez, one of his few match-winners.
Perez had one real chance – stand-in captain Jonjo Shelvey found him with a superb pass played from his own half – and the forward took his chance.
The 22-year-old can finish. We know that.
So why hadn’t he been in McClaren’s starting XIs for the games against Stoke City and Chelsea?
McClaren paired him with Emmanuel Riviere up front.
But Riviere, a willing runner but lacking in pace, again looked out of his depth and was replaced at the break.
Aleksandar Mitrovic didn’t fare much better in the second half.
Charlie Daniels’ late goal for Bournemouth added insult to injury.
McClaren had pledged to sort the club’s defence after his appointment, but the there was no defence for his team’s defending.
The former England coach’s time is up at St James’s Park, whatever the decision of managing director Lee Charnley and owner Mike Ashley, who wasn’t at the game.
A weary McClaren fronted up after the game. For once, he was brutally honest.
“We understand and will fully take all the criticism that we’ll receive,” he said. “We accept it all. I’m as frustrated and angry as the next person, and as the supporters who were watching that.”
Of course, the club’s problems run deeper than its head coach.
Charnley and chief scout Graham Carr have presided over a disastrous few years.
The signing of Riviere, a player lacking the pace and guile needed for Premier League football, is just one example of where the club’s recruitment has gone badly wrong.
Riviere had scored just one, deflected goal in his 25 league appearances up to the Bournemouth game.
The 26-year-old, a willing but limited player, was never going to be the answer to the club’s goalscoring problems, yet McClaren has been toying with starting him for the past fortnight.
There’s been a disconnect between the club’s recruitment on the continent and what’s actually needed on Tyneside.
There must be accountability at every level. Charnley, for too long, put fiscal prudence above footballing ambition.
The financial figures were good. But the football wasn’t nearly good enough.
Alan Shearer was right on Match of the Day. The club, he said, is “in a mess from top to bottom”.
That’s not just McClaren’s fault. Charnley – who staked his reputation on McClaren being a success at United – and Carr must also take responsibility for the decisions which have left the club in crisis.
Many supporters believe they should go too.
Sadly, Newcastle, aside from its work in the community, doesn’t have any class any more – on or off the field.
Ashley’s club, in its present state, deserves Championship football. But the fans certainly don’t.