Reports are being circulated amongst many respected news outlets this afternoon that Steve Stone and John Carver have been relieved of any responsibilities at Newcastle United. It is anticipated by the same outlets that Steve McLaren will be hired as our new manager/coach in the coming days. These sackings may just kick start a new era for our club.
So why is this news so significant? Well, for a long time now we have have had serious problems all over the pitch. From basic defensive positioning mistakes, set pieces being woeful at the back and when attacking, the team’s inability to string several passes together and keep the ball moving on the floor, lack of creativity moving forward and development players not making the step up. We fans have speculated for just as long when it comes to the source of these problems. Were Carr’s signings not up to scratch? Was Pardew a useless manager? Has the club’s hierarchy interfered too much with the playing side of things? Was it the coaches themselves?
Look in more detail and it can be strongly argued that the latter suggestion is the biggest indicator for our multiple and basic failures. We all know players on the Continent usually come with far greater technical skill than those brought up within the British schools of excellence. Holland, Spain and France are all known for producing players with sound passing movement and far less reliance on long ball than here in the UK. Bearing in mind that most of our purchases in recent years have been imported from these Countries, why is it that we still revert to ‘punt-and-hope’ so often and do not seem to understand the concept of ‘play it out from the back’? Is Carr really picking up duff after duff or is there more to it?
Maybe it was all Pardew. He had good technical players at his disposal, many of which were earning very positive reviews abroad before their arrival on the banks of the Tyne. He was the man running the show after all. It has to be said that he has to take some responsibility. He has the final say on how our side should be set out to play. However, his Palace side are a different animal since he joined them – employing far superior wing play and attacking zest than we have seen at this club for a long time. Maybe a workman really is only as good as his tools? Although many felt we were not meeting our full potential under his stewardship, he still had us comfortably in mid table when he left. That said, it is noted that Stone and Carver were hired after Pardew’s arrival at the club. If they were his men, then there is responsibility to be taken there.
So has the board interfered too much? Mike Ashley more or less admitted as much before our survival Sunday cash against West Ham. A policy of not competing in the Cups and not pushing for the Europa League is not going to motivate your players to push themselves to be the best that they can be. When you consider another policy has been to buy them young and talented before flogging them for profit, it is hardly a surprise that they will see the club as a shop window and not much else when they have nothing to aim for in terms of glory or silverware during their stay with us. Indeed, the board must take a big share of the blame – more than Pardew, who was operating with his hands tied behind his back. Add to the fact that the board chose to tie so many staff members to 8-year contracts and you can see how Pardew will have been powerless to remove any of the coaches if he recognised that they were not up to it after all. We do not know that Pardew ever recognised this or not, but if he had – what could he have really done about it?
Finally that leaves the coaches. Is it any coincidence that following Pardew’s departure the team’s form markedly nosedived? Carver may have been performing a different role as head coach, but the same coaches remained at the club with the same staff, yet results and performances were even worse than before. The same basic mistakes being made, but more often. John Carver has resided over the defensive and attacking set up at different points in the last few years and neither has looked particular impressive during those times. How can it be that such technical players turn into headless, indecisive chickens? The answer is simple. They are having the wrong messages drilled into them on the training pitch and that has led to incohesiveness on match days. Carver taking a step up has confirmed that he and other coaches have played a huge part in the dour football that we have subjected to for such a long time.
Their sacking is far more important that our next managerial appointment. The new manager will still have strict parameters to work to at this club. He will still have to use Carr’s men, but it looks like he will have the opportunity to bring in his own ‘tools’. Our set pieces in particular have been consistently amongst the worst in the league for a long time and it is hard to see how any new coaches could possibly have our side playing that badly. If McLaren does come in, we can expect coaches with more technical know how and a different playing style from the team. We should not expect miracles, but new coaches and new policies in terms of going for Cups should in theory breathe a new lease of life into the club and invigorate our players.