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Friday 9 December 2016

Shearer words a warning sign for Newcastle

Legendary resilience and loyalty of the Newcastle faithful is at breaking point

Newcastle manager Steve McClaren is pictured during the 5-1 rout by Crystal Palace last Saturday
Newcastle manager Steve McClaren is pictured during the 5-1 rout by Crystal Palace last Saturday

It must have been a sweet moment for Alan Pardew when Crystal Palace's fifth and final goal crashed into the Newcastle United net at the weekend.

He wouldn't be human if he didn't take a great deal of pleasure from the fact that he was able to prove a big point to Newcastle owner Mike Ashley.

Every month that goes by at St James Park piles up the evidence that Ashley is a man who has no interest in football apart from using it as a vehicle to trade merchandise

The man on the receiving end of that Palace hammering, Steve McClaren, gets no sympathy whatsoever simply because he walked into St James Park with his eyes open.

In fact, his behaviour after the game was enough to tell me that for all his reputation as a great coach, he has very little clue about managing men.

His decision to publicly humiliate players that were already smarting from the beating they took in Selhurst Park and haul them in for extra training on their day off smacks of optics and nothing else.

Change

He was trying to show the fans that he is in control but all he managed to do was to show how little authority he really has, alienated his players further and made sure that if he had any supporters in the dressing room, they are less likely to think well of him now.

As we all know, McClaren is just the latest in a long list of managers who believed they could tame Newcastle or at least, tap into the good will of passionately loyal supporters who, up until now, have taken every punch fate has delivered and still turned up every year to buy their season tickets.

But there is a change and one which a club legend, who would only have the best intentions towards the club, pointed out after the bruising defeat.

Alan Shearer spoke of how his son wants to go and watch rugby these days. That was a remarkable thing to say and should be a huge warning sign for Ashley if he cared enough to notice.

For a number of seasons now, Newcastle has been a trading club, a part of Ashley's commercial empire and I don't mean a selling club.

There are many small and ambitious clubs that are forced to sell players to survive but it seems to me that Newcastle exists now to trade in footballers as a business.

The fans can do nothing but watch the whole thing unfold like a car crash in slow motion.

McClaren was totally wrong to blame all the ills of Newcastle United on a bunch of players who were brought in by a director of football and not himself.

It can't be easy for professional footballers to be professional about their work when there is an atmosphere of perpetual crisis around a club and particularly when most of the damage is being done to Newcastle off the pitch.

According to what I've read, the players were not minded to go quietly when McClaren read the riot act on the training pitch and gave as good as they got.

That's wrong on many levels but most importantly, if players feel they have licence to argue with the manager on the training ground then McClaren has lost either control or respect and most likely both.

The fact that they had a bad day against Palace to go with several other bad days this season is hardly surprising at a club designed to fail.

This has been the case at St James Park for as long as I can remember and whether the problem was feuding families fighting over control or Ashley's commercial priorities, the end result is always the same.

A manager gets sacked, players move on and the whole cycle repeats with the next patsy brought into to take up where McClaren leaves off when the inevitable happens and he is sacked. I don't see how he can stay. If the players won't play for him, he has no chance.

José Mourinho is dealing with a different version of the same problem with Diego Costa.

On the surface, it looks like Costa is desperate to play but is unwilling to submit to the manager's authority. This undermines Mourinho and gives the lie to his much-repeated line that there are no problems in his dressing room and that all his players are onside.

Costa certainly isn't onside and while Mourinho has every right to feel spectacularly let down by his only real striker, a player he has backed up and defended when he was getting a lot of stick for his abrasive nature on the pitch, the result of this very public argument is that the manager is diminished.

He has to get Costa back on the pitch or find a new striker in the January window and I'm not sure Roman Abramovich is ready to invest any more in Mourinho.

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