Miles Starforth: Newcastle look doomed – with or without Steve McClaren

Steve McClaren
Steve McClaren

Still not in a crisis, Lee?

It certainly looks like a crisis to most Newcastle United fans.

The hierarchy at St James’s Park, including managing director Lee Charnley, told a recent Fans Forum meeting that the club was not “in a crisis”.

But relegation now has an inevitability about it after a troubled and troubling few months on Tyneside.

The club has too much to do in too short a space of time.

Steve McClaren’s side could well beat Bournemouth tomorrow – they are better at home – but that won’t change anything in itself. Newcastle need wins – maybe as many as five – from their last 11 games.

The problem is that United – which spent more than any other club in Europe in January’s transfer window – has won just six Premier League games all season.

And nothing supporters have seen over the past few weeks has convinced them that the team can suddenly start winning.

McClaren’s side can’t score and they’re struggling to keep goals out at the other end.

That was the case in pre-season. And it’s still the case now.

What McClaren, the club’s head coach, has done in the intervening months hasn’t worked.

Systems and personnel have changed, but the performances and results, with a couple of notable exceptions, haven’t.

That’s why, with just over two months of the campaign left, Newcastle find themselves second-bottom of the league. Understandably, many fans want to see McClaren dismissed. Now.

McClaren was asked about his future in the Press room at the Britannia Stadium on Wednesday night after his team’s 1-0 defeat.

The 54-year-old, tasked with guiding the club to a top-eight finish when he was appointed last summer, looked drained as he spoke to journalists after what was a seventh successive away loss.

McClaren had been jeered by away fans as he walked to the sanctuary of the dressing room after the game.

The responsibility of keeping the club in the Premier League, has weighed heavily on McClaren’s shoulders over the past few months, but he will not walk away from the job.

Asked if he would be leading the club at the end of the campaign, he said: “I don’t see why not.”

McClaren felt his team, beaten 5-1 by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in their previous outing, showed fight against Stoke.

But that shouldn’t be celebrated in itself.

That’s the very least the 1,622 away fans should have expected on an awful night at the Britannia Stadium. And, from day one, that’s the very least McClaren should have expected from his players.

McClaren also pointed to the late save from Jack Butland – who was outstanding in the goalless draw at St James’s Park early this season – in his post-game assessment.

Butland denied substitute Seydou Doumbia in injury time.

But the goalkeeper isn’t the reason United are 19th in the Premier League.

The thing is, Butland hadn’t had anything to do until Doumbia’s late strike.

And, bizarrely, Emmanuel Riviere, a player who has struggled to score in English football, was brought on ahead of Ayoze Perez, who already has five goals to his name in English football.

Perez had been an unused substitute for the club’s previous two games.

McClaren was asked about Perez before the Stoke game, but he didn’t answer the question.

The Riviere decision was met with a chant of “you don’t know what you’re doing” from fans at the Britannia Stadium.

McClaren is a hugely-experienced and respected coach, but does he know what’s he’s doing? That’s a question many supporters are asking ahead of the Bournemouth game.

Why has Perez – whose goals kept the club in the league last season – played just six minutes of the last 270? And why can’t we have some straighter answers?

Should United lose, or even draw, to Bournemouth at St James’s Park, it’s hard to see McClaren surviving any longer as head coach.

Charnley – who labelled McClaren has the “perfect fit” for the club after his appointment – will have a decision to make if Newcastle fail to beat Eddie Howe’s 15th-placed side.

But would there be enough time for a new head coach to turn the team’s fortunes around?

Probably not.