Steve McClaren finally knows his strongest Newcastle starting XI

Newcastle boss Steve McClaren
Newcastle boss Steve McClaren

Steve McClaren says he settled upon his strongest Newcastle United side – 90 days into the Premier League season.

The club takes on Leicester City at St James’s Park on Saturday looking to build on its first away success of the campaign.

Before people didn’t know the pecking order, but now they roughly know and we all roughly know what the team’s going to be bar one or two.

Steve McClaren

Newcastle beat Bournemouth 1-0 before the international break to finally climb out of the drop zone.

Head coach McClaren feels the first three months of the campaign were always going to be tough, given that the team had only narrowly avoided relegation last season.

And he is hopeful that the progress he has seen “every day” on the training ground will soon translate into more results on the pitch.

McClaren said: “We feel like we’re turning a big ship, really, in terms of we’re trying to turn things around – and it’s slow.

“It’s slow, but you can see it. I can see it; I see it every day.

“They’re a good bunch of players, they’ve got good talent, and they work hard.

“We’re turning it around. I’m seeing good things. It’s a big job.

“It’s going to take a while to turn it around – some people say a ‘transition’ and all this and all that – but I think the first 90 days are key.

“We’ve been trying a lot of things in those first 90 days, and I think, in the last four or five weeks, we’ve settled.”

McClaren feels there’s now a “pecking order” at the club, given that he has a more settled starting XI.

“I think the (international) windows have been good for us,” he said. “We’ve looked, reviewed, settled.

“After the last one we looked and said ‘right, Chelsea and Man City ... we looked at the team for those two games and we’ve seen enough’.

“We’ve stuck with that since and we’ve kind of settled down. Before people didn’t know the pecking order, but now they roughly know, and we all roughly know, what the team’s going to be bar one or two.

“And what we want to do eventually is you can roughly say that after 65 minutes they’re going to make that change.

“We’re nowhere near that at the present moment, but that’s where we want to get to.

“For 95 minutes, we want to know what are options and alternatives are, and that these are the players who can change this and that.

“It’s about defining a player’s job and his role. We’re finding that pecking order. It’s about settling into that.”