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Sunday 4 December 2016

Newcastle's season will kick off if we can beat Chelsea, says under-fire Steve McClaren

A dejected Steve McClaren after the final whistle
A dejected Steve McClaren after the final whistle

Under-pressure Newcastle head coach Steve McClaren is confident a single win would turn around a season which is threatening to spiral out of control.

The 54-year-old saw his fledgling reign at St James' Park suffer another body blow on Wednesday when Sky Bet Championship side Sheffield Wednesday dumped the Magpies out of the Capital One Cup.

McClaren insisted from day one that his masterplan for success on Tyneside would take time to implement, but fans battered into submission by years of under-achievement and perhaps worse, a perceived lack of ambition, are rapidly losing patience with a project which looks increasingly flawed.

With resurgent Chelsea heading for St James' on Saturday ahead of a trip to current Barclays Premier League leaders Manchester City, the chorus of disapproval could yet grow in volume, although McClaren is adamant that victory over Jose Mourinho's men would dramatically change the febrile atmosphere threatening to engulf the club.

He told nufcTV: "Do we fear it? Do we say we don't want to play in that? We have got to. We have got to get people ready for Saturday, ready to fight, and one result turns it around.

"You have got to say and you have got to believe - which I do - that could be Saturday."

A win over Chelsea may well have the desired effect, and the Blues have lost on each of their last three visits to Tyneside.

However, those Newcastle teams, whatever their failings, could score goals; this one, at least at the moment, cannot, and worryingly, it cannot defend either.

Fans have directed their anger in recent years at owner Mike Ashley and a recruitment policy based on hunting out bargains from basements in which few other clubs were shopping.

For every Yohan Cabaye or Mathieu Debuchy unearthed by chief scout Graham Carr, there has been a series of failures - some of whom remain on the books and unwanted elsewhere.

But this summer, Ashley sanctioned significant investment to the tune of more than £52million, and it is the way in which that money has been spent by managing director Lee Charnley which is now coming under scrutiny with Chancel Mbemba, Georginio Wijnaldum, Florian Thauvin and Aleksandar Mitrovic yet to justify the outlay.

Of that quartet, all but the suspended Mitrovic started against the Owls and played their part in yet another one-dimensional, one-paced and ultimately impotent display as Lewis McGugan fired the visitors - who made 10 changes - to a 1-0 victory.

Debutant Kevin Mbabu, who replaced Daryl Janmaat at the break after he complained of illness, said: "We are all disappointed because we had chances to score and we didn't score. We were better than the opponents and we are all disappointed that we didn't win.

"Everybody needs to stay positive and fight. Now this game has gone, now everybody needs to focus on Chelsea and we all have to think we are able to win against this team."

McClaren will have Mitrovic back from his three-game ban and will hope his presence will prove one of the missing ingredients in a squad already riven by injury and sickness just weeks into the campaign.

The former England boss said: "We have got to take a roll call and have a look at things. I don't think it matters what we do over the next two days - it's about mentality now.

"It's about players who stand up and want to fight and want to be out there and want to turn it around, because that's what's needed - nothing else."

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