We all know about Steve McClaren – the brolly guy, the speaking English with a Dutch accent guy but he’s also the guy who achieved considerable success at Middlesborough, the guy who took FC Twente to their first ever Eredivisie title, the guy who coached Manchester United to the treble and the guy who so nearly steered Derby County to the Premier League. The big question is, which Steve McClaren will rock up at St. James’ Park?
Since that unhappy time fending off aggressive raindrops at Wembley back in 2007, Steve McClaren has picked himself up, dusted himself off, got covered once again in dust and various other assorted bugs, scraped them all off, walked into a wasp nest, fought most of the blighters off only to go and stand on an upturned rake before ambling into a fishermen’s net.
Maybe that needs qualifying.
Let’s pick up the pace after the England job and the Croatia debacle when McClaren hopped it to Holland to take charge of FC Twente – he only went and led them to their first league title in 2010. A spell as the first Englishman to take charge of a German club followed with Wolfsburg but he lasted only nine months before receiving the boot in February 2011. From there he rocked up in Nottingham, promptly signed George Boateng, Ishmael Miller, Jonathon Greening, Matt Derbyshire and Andy Reid for Forest but lasted all of ten games before resigning after a Munchian home loss to Birmingham City – reportedly unhappy about restrictions preventing him making further loan signings. Of those signings above, only Reid can be said to be a successful one.
No matter, FC Twente took him back but it wasn’t the same – it never is. After a 6th place finish, he resigned after growing discontent amongst the fans. Then it was back to the coaching, putting out the cones for Harry Redknapp at QPR before trying his hand once again as the guy who watched the coach put out the cones as Derby County came calling following Nigel Clough’s sacking in September 2013 after only three months at Loftus Road.
While in charge of Derby, he got the team back on its collective feet and brought out the best in players such as Craig Bryson, Jeff Hendrick, Will Hughes and Chris Martin. They played energetic, high tempo football, flooding the midfield and breaking quickly. Derby were the recipient of covetous glances from many as they oh so nearly won promotion in the play-offs only to fall foul to an undeserved last minute winner from Bobby Zamora against, of course, QPR. Nonetheless, Derby were in a good position to challenge again and started the following season in determined mood to avoid play-off defeat. They sort of achieved this (avoiding more-play-off misery, that is) by finishing the season like an All Terrain Armored Transport (AT-AT) after being tripped by a piece of cheese cutting wire, stumbling around wondering what the heck has gone wrong.
Indeed, some Derby fans feel that McClaren rather blotted his copy book and failed to keep his powder dry as he did little to put an end to the constant speculation linking him with the Newcastle job while his Derby team imploded.
So, a dizzying combination of success and underachievement characterises his managerial career since taking the reigns of the England team. If truth be told, more underachievement than success. However, McClaren is arguably a coach by trade, highly regarded my those he’s worked with and lest we forget, forged his reputation under Sir Alex Ferguson as coach to the treble winning side of 1999.
The plaudits for his craft are many: “Steve McClaren was one of the best coaches I’ve worked for and I think he was unlucky,” gushed Phil Neville and George Boateng is equally complimentary: “His coaching was amazing. He would do sessions that made you think twice, rather than go through the motions, without engaging your brain.”
But his role at St James’ Park is more than setting the cones out. He’s under no illusions regarding what is expected from him: “Believe me, every manager would say they want to build this exciting team that attacks all the time and scores goals. Ultimately though, you want to build a team that wins.
“My team should always have attitude, always have fight, always play football and always play with a certain style and flair because I think that’s what Newcastle demands. They should always play attacking football. But ultimately, you know, it’s about the result,” he told the Newcastle Chronicle, seemingly fully aware that if he doesn’t bring home the bacon in the form of points on the board, he’ll be asked to pack his belongings into a sad brown box and take a walk.
The club’s owner, Mike Ashley has backed him in the transfer market, handing over the reddies to bring in attacking midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum from PSV Eindhoven, striker Aleksander Mitrovic and defender Chancel Mbemba, both from Anderlecht at a total cost of £35.5m. For a club used to bringing in under the radar raw diamonds from France, this is almost a sea change and reminiscent of previous boom eras up at St James’ Park.
McClaren also has youngsters Karl Darlow and Jamaal Lascelles already up there waiting for him after they were picked up a year ago for £5m but loaned straight back to Nottingham Forest for the season. Both are now Newcastle’s players and will be keen to impress the new boss. In all likelihood though, both will find themselves being loaned out to a Championship club again after an indifferent season for both at Forest last year. Darlow certainly has the potential to be an excellent keeper but he’ll have to develop a more commanding presence in his own box if he is to fulfill his undoubted potential. Lascelles showed huge promise as a youngster but seems to have lost the confidence and fearlessness of the young, playing hesitantly rather than intuitively and instinctively. His time may well come but he doesn’t seem ready yet to grapple with Matej Vydra, let alone Diego Costa.
The question remains too whether all of the trauma and turmoil of last season has been forgotten up at St James’ Park. It seemed a very unhappy place from January onwards (probably before then too) as the team only avoided relegation on the final day, helped in part by facing a beach-bound West Ham United. Indeed, there is already reported unrest on McClaren’s part about the club’s pre-season arrangements. After a 2-2 draw against Sheffield United in a friendly at Bramall Lane, McClaren seemed unhappy: “I think we got through it (without injuries), that was the main thing. This was always going to be a difficult game, two or three days after 11 days in America. Unfortunately, this is the schedule we had put before us and we have had to deal with it.”
Here lies the rub – will McClaren be left alone to get on with the job without having to contend with the constant buzz and white noise that comes with being Newcastle’s manager under Mike Ashley? The club has clambered into bed with Sky Sports and the Daily Mirror, eschewing all other press outlets. This is a daring move that rarely ends well.
So is McClaren equipped to deal with such trying circumstances? He should be – jobs don’t come much more trying than the England job and he surely learned an awful lot about himself while abroad. It is telling though that back in October 2012, he told The Observer, “ultimately, I’m a teacher, I’m a coach, and I like to coach players and I like to coach coaches.” Perhaps he would rather be left alone to coach players rather than deal with the shenanigans and rum goings on at a place like St. James’ Park.
On the one hand, his career trajectory suggests a manager who bails out when the going gets tough. Alternatively, here’s a manager that rather honorably leaves when he realises things aren’t quite going as they should be. Indisputably though, with the right conditions, McClaren has the skills and the track record to bring the good times back to St James’ Park – but conditions at Newcastle are currently anything but.[interaction id=”55be7f3fa52231f6077949cf”] [separator type=”thin”]
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Why Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Luke Shaw has crossed the line
The Portuguese manager has been highly critical of Luke Shaw this season.
The fractious relationship between Jose Mourinho and Luke Shaw plumbed new depths when the left-back was substituted at half-time in Manchester United’s FA Cup victory over Brighton & Hove Albion. The 22-year-old had been handed a rare opportunity to impress at Old Trafford but lasted only 45 minutes.
Speaking about Shaw in his post-match interview, Mourinho said: “Luke, in the first half, every time they came in his corridor, the cross came in and a dangerous situation was coming. I was not happy with his performance.”
The differences between the pair now appear to be irreconcilable. Shaw, who was signed by Louis van Gaal in the summer of 2014, has been used sparingly by Mourinho. The former Southampton starlet has made just 18 Premier League appearances under the Portuguese in a career that has been blighted by injuries.
Being substituted at half-time is almost as embarrassing as it gets for a player and Shaw’s mood will not have improved after being publicly criticised by his manager. It’s certainly not the first time Mourinho has chosen to talk candidly to the media about his concerns with the 22-year-old.
Some players require an arm around the shoulder to perform at their peak, while for others it takes a kick up the backside. Mourinho, opting for the latter, does nothing without reason and has clearly tried to spark a reaction from Shaw, without success.
From being one of English football’s brightest prospects after making his World Cup debut aged just 18, Shaw, who has seven England caps to his name, is in danger of not fulfilling the potential that convinced United to spend what was then a world-record fee for a teenager.
Mourinho’s tactic of singling out individuals who have not met his standards is in stark contrast to Sir Alex Ferguson, who never blamed his players in public. It has divided opinion among pundits, with Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier claiming the United manager is ‘destroying’ Shaw.
Mourinho is an expert at using smokescreens to distract from his side’s unconvincing performances. And this latest controversy has moved the narrative on from United’s shock Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla.
Tough love is one thing, but the sustained, public attack on Shaw is unacceptable. If Mourinho genuinely believes he is not good enough to represent United, then fair enough. But to continually vilify the youngster’s performances is a step too far and one that could irreparably damage Shaw’s confidence.
This is not to say that Shaw is a completely innocent bystander. Mourinho’s predecessor, Louis van Gaal, also questioned his desire and general conditioning when he joined United four years ago. Indeed, the Dutchman signed Shaw up to a tailored exercise regime in an effort to improve his fitness.
But while van Gaal’s treatment had the desired effect, Mourinho’s has done the opposite. Being publicly humiliated on a routine basis does neither party any favours.
In all likelihood, Shaw’s disappointing United career will come to an end this summer. A fresh start away from the toxicity under Mourinho is exactly what he needs.
Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week
The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.
With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.
Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.
In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.
Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.
One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.
The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.
Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.
This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.
If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.
It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.
Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.
Despite improvement, Everton should not rekindle Thomas Vermaelen interest
The Belgian defender has been in better form for Barcelona this season.
Rumours have emerged today suggesting Everton could be back in for Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen.
Catalan newspaper Sport has reported that the 32-year-old could be offered a new deal by Barcelona, with a team from the Premier League interested in signing him.
Sport Witness has openly hypothesised that Everton could be that team. Whilst there is no confirmation or substantiated report that is the case, the boot certainly fits.
Last summer Everton tried to sign Vermaelen.
As reported by the Liverpool Echo, at the time Barcelona vetoed a loan move to Everton as they felt the defender could be a useful asset.
The Belgian certainly has. After struggling with injuries and form throughout most of his Barcelona tenure the former Arsenal man has enjoyed a good season.
The 32-year-old has been a genuine asset to the Catalans, despite still being used sparingly, and such form has even seen him win back a place in Roberto Martinez’s national selection for Belgium.
If it is Everton interested in Vermaelen it is easy to see why. Centre-back has been a major problem for the club this season.
However, Vermaelen, or a player of his ilk, is not the answer to the Toffees’ woes.
The Belgian is obviously a talented player with plenty of experience, but Everton need to freshen up their back-line.
Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka’s age has shown in recent months.
The pair have been, at the best, inconsistent for the past 18 months and Everton need fresh young talent in the heart of defence if they are to succeed.
Vermaelen is not only 32 but also immensely injury prone. Everton need reliable figures to plug their leaky defences and the Belgian can simply not be relied upon.
Whilst on paper it seems a good deal, and one Everton could certainly turn to their benefit.
The truth is supporters of the Goodison Park outfit will hope they are not the club reportedly keen on bringing Vermaelen back to the Premier League.
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