Newcastle United: Who Would Continue to Drink from this Poisoned Chalice?
If there was ever a football club to make a long-running soap opera around, it would undoubtedly be Newcastle United. They air out all their dirty laundry in black and white, and their downward spiral at the back-end of this Premier League campaign has demonstrated that drama more than ever before.
Ever since the departure of Alan Pardew as manager to Crystal Palace at the start of 2015, the Magpies have capitulated down the table and into serious threat of relegation. Newcastle when Pardew left had accrued 26 points and were sitting comfortably in mid-table. Not that this stopped the fans complaining, as despite that passion and enthusiasm they have a serious overestimation of the status of their club’s stature.
Since John Carver was brought in as a caretaker to steer them towards the conclusion of the season, he has locked up the wheel and appears powerless to resist an upcoming crash. This has led to only 9 more points and two wins in 2015. Although he hasn’t experienced anywhere near the backlash that Pardew endured, likely due to his geographical ties to the city and his public admonishment of his players hapless performances.
Realistically, the problem with Newcastle United has rarely been the manager, and yet they are often the ones that bear the brunt of the crowd’s vitriol. Don’t get me wrong, the fans aren’t expecting to be winning the Premier League anytime soon, but they have often been quick to turn on their gaffer when they are sitting in a safe position. They are entitled to desire and hope, especially in the sheer numbers they flock to the Sports Direct Arena on a weekly basis.
Like most clubs unburdened by the same pressures for success as those at the very top of the league, Newcastle’s fans would want a manager that plays attractive football, earns them a decent cup run, and is honest with the crowd, be it good or bad. That isn’t much to ask for, but let’s not deny the fact they’ve lambasted those with potential to guide them to those targets. Sam Allardyce, Chris Hughton and Pardew spring immediately to mind in recent years.
That leaves the question of who would willingly jump headfirst into this hornet’s nest based on the current environment of Newcastle United and the treatment of predecessors. Names like David Moyes, Michael Laudrup, and Steve McClaren have all been linked with being the job for next year. McClaren was even offered the opportunity to take up the reins and help them battle against the dreaded drop, but has opted not to in spite of Derby’s season being over.
Think about the situation the next manager will have to contend with. Newcastle United are in serious danger of being in the Championship next season, as their run of eight consecutive league defeats has shown no sign of changing. The squad has a mixture of aging veterans and signings that have been extremely disappointing. Apart from a few success stories, with Tim Krul, Jack Colback and Papiss Cisse providing some speckled lights in the gloom, the performances of most of their players has been pretty hopeless to say the least.
Yet, not even relegation and a necessary overhaul of the squad are the biggest issue confronting the next boss of the club. Instead, it is the unmitigated hatred from the fans towards the owner Mike Ashley. Even since the founder of Sports Direct bought a majority share in Newcastle, his relationship with the fans has been at best tense, and at worst led to heated protests demanding his resignation. Although unfortunately for the team’s fans, you don’t hear too much talk of another consortium coming in to take it off Ashley’s hands.
This fractious environment has overshadowed everything that has taken place in the club since 2007. It has evidently impacted the performance and mood of the players and management, as their form dwindles in light of the bile being thrown from the fans towards the board. Everything from Newcastle’s low spending on signings despite profits, to Ashley’s southern background has fuelled this war indefinitely.
Would any manager be willing to walk out of their current surroundings into this toxic environment? Not many I would suppose. As the old saying goes you need to be crazy to be a football manager, but at Newcastle they provide their own strait jacket. The optimism in 2012 that surrounded the club’s return to the European scene seems like it was decades ago, and the new man will have a significant rebuilding job on his hand whether they avoid the trap door or not.
In truth, the Newcastle manager’s job is no longer a poisoned chalice that it was in the late 1990’s. It has been so riddled with failure and lack of silverware since their last trophy in 1955 (or 1969 if you count the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup). Thus, should a manager match this lack of success, and is tossed out without making an impression, he is now no worse off than before joining. It would be par for the course, and then they can come back out swinging at another club.
But, if they were somehow able to bring success, like European football or an FA Cup back to Tyneside, they become a legend in the city. They will have achieved something that hasn’t been accomplished in practically 60 years, and will be heralded by the fans for years to come as a hero. Really it is the opposite of a poisoned chalice – Newcastle United has the potential to be champagne contained in a plastic bottle.
Nevertheless, I do not envy the next man to throw his name into the ring on Tyneside, and deal with the myriad of fan apathy, underperforming players and boardroom turmoil. Maybe the pressure to capture a trophy might be less than it ever has been, but every other form of burden a manager can be placed under, Newcastle United provides in spades.
Be it McClaren, Moyes, Laudrup or any other experienced coach, I wish them all the best, whilst realistically expecting the worst.