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McClaren passes on chance to truly change Newcastle culture

Ahead of the Alan Pardew Bowl this weekend, Steve McClaren had a chance to make a profound change. For better or worse, he did not do so.

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Newcastle United head to London to take on Crystal Palace in the second Alan Pardew Bowl.  The commentary and discussion about this match will have clearly identifiable and predictable talking points so lets not deal with those at all.  We'll have plenty of time and reason to talk about that during the match.  There is a more important matter at hand tomorrow.

The introduction of Steve McClaren brought promises of culture change both on and off of the pitch.  The style of play was meant to change and the results were ostensibly to have improved.  Judge me after 10 games was the battle cry.  Except when it became clear that the results weren't changing.  Now we can't change the series of poor results and the judgement is to be put off until the summer.  Or later, probably.  The fact of the matter is that the club are coming off their worst two performances of the season.  We are demonstrably moving backward.

The week's early events provided a new and meaningful opportunity for McClaren to change that culture.  It is perhaps understandable (if inadvisable) that he chose to stick with Fabricio Coloccini as Newcastle United's captain.  There were decent shouts in the lead up to the season to see someone else with the captain's arm band.  Daryl Janmaat seemed the more vocal type of leader that would at the very least pass the eye test as a captain.  The band could have been used as a sort of carrot for some player who may view himself as bigger than the club but still can't produce the types of performances and regularity to earn himself a move away from St. James' Park.  Coloccini was the safe option.  In the face of the intended wholesale change, there was a degree of logic in that selection.  As an old boss of mine said some time back, however, "If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got" (side note: This boss was a born and raised Arkansan).

It's not just that Colo has seemingly been unable to inspire the performances on the pitch.  We are in the midst of a really terrible run of results that runs back to the beginning of this calendar year (if you want to be pretty limited in scope) and spans multiple coaching staffs.  Indifferent displays by the team have often been matched by our supposed captain.  This is the fact.  It was evident enough to McClaren that he is reported to have broken his own no swearing rule in dressing down the entire squad and some players in particular, most notably Mr. Coloccini. He is still scared to make the change, though. In the Leicester performance, McClaren was given the opportunity to make that culture change.  Just like the team have done thus far this season, he bottled it.

Perhaps we're just looking at a coach keeping as many layers of insulation between himself and accountability as possible.  If we hope to see a light at the end of the tunnel from this era of terrible results and same old same old, we have to hope that is the case.  His support of Coloccini at this moment calls into question his motivation to change the culture at all.  He has tied himself to Alan Pardew's captain, for better or worse.  As Colo goes from here out, so will perceptions of McClaren.  For all our sakes, he better hope that the gamble pays off finally.  It's hard to see it doing so based on a pretty consequential set of data.