Steve McClaren reflects on Newcastle United PR disaster
Steve McClaren has reflected on his disastrous spell at Newcastle United.
McClaren, appointed as the club’s head coach in the summer of 2015, lasted just eight months in the job. He was replaced by by Rafa Benitez after a home defeat to Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth side.
The club was relegated at the end of the season, despite a sizeable investment in players, notably Florian Thauvin, at the start of the campaign. The club also signed Jonjo Shelvey and Henri Saivet in the Jauary window.
McClaren was appointed to a four-man board with managing director Lee Charnley, chief scout Graham Carr and former captain Bob Moncur.
Speaking at the time, Charnley said: “It was particularly important for us that the head coach also became a board member in order to gain a full understanding and appreciation for the club and its operations as a whole, not just the football side.
"In Steve, we have an individual that embraced that responsibility."
However, McClaren, recruited by Charnley, says he made a “big mistake” by taking the job without meeting then-owner Mike Ashley – as he didn’t know his “vision”.
“Going into Newcastle, I never met the owner, so I didn't really know what the vision was," the 60-year-old told The McClaren Performance Podcast.
"I didn't really know what success looked like on and off the field. I just wanted the job. I made a big mistake.
"I just wanted the job, and didn't find out the real vision, direction, what success looked like, what I needed to do on and off the field, and how I was to communicate with the owner, who's the most important person at a football club.
"Usually, you communicate, not in pairs, but in threes so it's always, say, myself, the CEO and the owner or myself, the technical director/sporting director and the owner. I never had that, and that was a massive thing that I didn't really know the vision.”
McClaren wasn’t helped by the decision taken by the club’s hierarchy to limit media access on his first day in charge to one national newspaper and one broadcaster, branded the club’s “preferred media partners”.
"So meeting the press, and trying to influence the press, was difficult, because for my first press conference, one member of the press was allowed to interview me and one person from Sky, so there were 26 other people from the media outside the stadium not allowed in,” said McClaren. “This is my first day.
"I knew a few of them, and a few of them phoned me up and said 'Steve, you've just made the biggest mistake ever on your first day of the job by excluding the press’. I apologised.”
McClaren did get the club to provide tea and biscuits for journalists at his media briefings during the season proper, but he was unable to answer key questions on recruitment.
"Every time we had a press conference, there was no tea or biscuits or anything in the room,” said the former England manager.
“I brought that in for them, but there was no way I could get round them after that first day so, therefore, I was on a downer already, and I couldn't be honest with my messages to the press."