Revealed! How Newcastle changing room in aftermath of Man City debacle exposes huge concerns

Tim Krul
Tim Krul
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It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

But it didn’t seem that way at the time as the goals, one by one, flew in.

It was a defeat which was to shape Newcastle United.

I’m talking about the club’s embarrassing 6-1 pre-season loss to Leyton Orient at Brisbane Road in the summer of 2009 – and the dressing-room ructions that followed.

The club was in a mess in the wake of relegation from the Premier League.

And that sunny afternoon in east London, ultimately, led to a brighter future on Tyneside.

Steve McClaren

Steve McClaren

I was reminded of the events at Brisbane Road in the aftermath of last weekend’s loss by the same scoreline at Manchester City.

But there are no parallels, as yet, bar the scoreline.

That’s because there was silence in the dressing room at the Etihad Stadium immediately after Saturday’s match.

There were no raised voices or recriminations, just silence.

There were no raised voices or recriminations, just silence. And that was as troubling as the second-half capitulation to City, who scored five goals in 13 minutes.

And that was as troubling as the second-half capitulation to City, who scored five goals in 13 minutes.

It was very different at Brisbane Road.

There were there were raised voices and there were recriminations.

Enough was enough for Kevin Nolan and a clutch of the club’s senior professionals, who were soon dubbed the “players’ committee”.

Kevin Nolan

Kevin Nolan

Of course, what had happened in the dressing room wasn’t immediately apparent.

I was stood at the mouth of the tunnel with a colleague when the first players started to emerge. Their heads were down, and they fixed expressions on their faces.

They had been told not to speak, but Jose Enrique broke ranks to apologise to the supporters who had witnessed the game

“It was bad for the supporters – I’m sorry for them,” he said. “We were all very bad.”

Later, it emerged that there had been a row in the dressing room between those committed to helping lift the club out of the Championship – led by Nolan – and those looking to leave.

Within a fortnight, Obafemi Martins, Habib Beye and Sebastien Bassong had left, and Damien Duff soon followed them out of the door.

Chris Hughton

Chris Hughton

Newcastle, again united, didn’t look back.

“Getting tonked 6-1 was a shambles, but brought a few things to light,” said Nolan months later.

“It showed who wanted to be here and who didn’t. What you’ve got now is a squad of players who want to be here, train hard, work hard and play hard, and who want to get this club back to where we think it belongs.”

Is that the case at United now?

What Nolan, Steve Harper, Joey Barton, Alan Smith and others had in the dressing room that day – and in the nine long months that followed – was backbone.

Had they stayed silent, the club may never have been promoted back to the Premier League at the first attempt.

Smith said: “Sometimes, in the face of adversity, people stand up to be counted, and sometimes it helps in the long run.”

The question now is whether Steve McClaren’s players have the backbone the team so badly needs – on and off the field.

United, undoubtedly, are in trouble.

The club is bottom of the league and without a win.

McClaren is crying out for leadership, but few in his squad, bar Daryl Janmaat, have shown much so far this season.

And the question mark over Fabricio Coloccini, and the decision to retain him as captain, won’t go away.

It’s too quiet on the pitch and it’s too quiet in the dressing room.

Krul, having played that day at Brisbane Road, knows what’s needed.

“We need more people speaking, but unfortunately that’s not the style of some of the players,” said Krul after Newcastle’s 2-2 draw against Chelsea last month.

“It needs to happen, and it has happened. People need to take more responsibility, and I think we did that.

“Some strong words were said after (the cup defeat to Sheffield Wednesday). We had some meetings about it. It wasn’t good enough. It was far below par.

“We know that, but at least we showed a reaction.”

Krul unhappiness with Newcastle’s second-half performance against City was evident as he walked through the mixed zone at the Etihad Stadium. He wasn’t happy.

Two other players, however, looked less bothered as they walked past the waiting journalists.

The club needs a modern-day Nolan, a player unwilling to accept anything less than 100 per cent effort from his team-mates on the pitch.

One by one, Nolan and the rest of the so-called “players’ committee” left St James’s Park amid suggestions that their power and influence had made the club’s hierarchy uncomfortable.

They were replaced by younger players, predominantly sourced from the continent. McClaren, unquestionably, has a talented squad, but talent alone won’t win football matches.

Football, of course, has changed, even since the club was last relegated.

The wages are bigger and the egos, in some cases, are even bigger. But are there as many leaders in the game?

McClaren doesn’t think so, and he claims his managerial counterparts will back him up.

“Everywhere I go and everyone I speak to, we talk about this so often,” he said last month.

“There are no leaders in the game anymore. Whether that is right or wrong, everyone is the same.”

McClaren is the favourite in the Premier League’s managerial sack race, but the players need to take some responsibility for recent performances.

The key consequence to the post-match exchanges after the Orient game was that those who weren’t fully committed to the cause soon left the club.

McClaren’s problem is that there can’t be any movement in or out of the club – bar emergency loans to Football League clubs – until the transfer window reopens in January.

There should have been more arrivals and departures in the summer just gone.

The club spent big – £52.6million to be precise – on five players and Jonas Gutierrez and Ryan Taylor were the only significant departures.

Indeed, there’s a strong argument that Gutierrez should have stayed. His passion for the club, and will to win, can’t be questioned. The same can’t be said for some of his former team-mates.

There will be more players leaving in January, possibly one or two big names.

And on the evidence of what happened at Brisbane Road, that won’t necessarily be a bad thing.

But will it be too late?