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The Three sources of Newcastle's decline

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Newcastle are in trouble. How did we get here?

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It was about 13 minutes in when I sent a text to my brother: "I tell you what we're playing some bloody decent stuff here."

There was a brief moment of joy and then I had to follow it up. "As I say that they bloody equalise don't they."

He wasn't watching. He hasn't since the Derby. He was actually at the Metro Centre with his girlfriend, not that I blame him though. It's easy to lament those who walk away and call them weak, but the idea of a fair-weather fan is they've actually seen some of that aforementioned 'fair-weather'.

Instead the sad and pathetic truth is Newcastle have been engulfed in a hurricane of mediocrity and low standards for years now.

Whenever that has seemed to pass – like this summer – we have actually been in the very eye of that hurricane, where a faux serenity surrounds us and we think it's ok to start believing again. Today we rocked up to Selhurst Park and knew it was about a lot more than three points. It was about validating the decision to let Alan Pardew go. To reaffirm why the fans didn't like his awful long ball style and ostracising of anyone that didn't fit his blueprint for a footballer.

They conceded 5 and now every member of the media will lament us like we're village idiots. Like they knew better when Pardew pitched up at Palace and we got a sub-par coach as manager in his place.

The greater question here is where did it go wrong? Why did it go wrong? How do you even start to fix a team that has conceded 8 goals in two games? Attempting to do that, at least for my part here, is largely cathartic, so stick with me if you can.

  1. Recruitment.

Fabricio Coloccini was once a great defender. I really have to emphasise the past tense there. Today it was Connor Wickham that bullied him like a child. In the derby it was Steven Fletcher that exploited his lack of pace to get a penalty (it doesn't matter whether you think the call was right or wrong, his lack of pace forced him into making that move).

In the summer Everton bought Ramiro Funes Mori and released Sylvain Distin. Unsurprisingly Distin is now with our relegation rival Bournemouth. Put simply, we have yet to recruit ahead of time. We only sign players when the issue has become frighteningly obvious and cost us matches. This season we've thrown Chancel Mbemba in with an ageing centre-back and somehow expected them to just forge a partnership.

They don't speak the same language, they're arguably the same type of defender and it means we're picked off with ease. This season we needed a big, physical, bastard of a centre back (pardon my French). Ryan Shawcross, Douglas (not Mark), someone that was big, aggressive, and didn't mind those physical battles.

We now know we need that centre-back. We also know we need at least one central midfielder that can give protection to the backline. Personally, I'm not on the 'Jack Colback is scum' bandwagon. Yes he played for Sunderland, he's also conducted far worse crimes wearing our shirt such as: tracking runners, passing sideways, lacking anything even resembling a dynamic pass. The guy is a back-up. He was a back-up/utility man at Sunderland and he should be the same for us.

Just like we didn't see fit to replace Coloccini, we haven't seen it fit to replace Yohan Cabaye. We need someone to dictate the play. Someone that can pass and just knit the team together. The sickening part of all this is that we're happy to sell players at the drop of a hat. We take too long to buy and we're far too quick to sell. Davide Santon and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa left when we actually needed them and could have used them. We had a thread bare squad last season and essentially let more go in the summer than we brought in.

Put simply, we have to sign replacements before the issue becomes fatal. This is not hard. If the untrained eye in the stands can see it, so should they. As it stands we arguably need a LB, CB, CM, and a decent winger, but the latter is more 'if you're going to the shops pick us one up Mike'.

Furthermore, while I love us buying Champions League quality guys, we can't simply rely on the deals in Europe. This has nothing to do with the draconian idea that we need English players because they have heart or desire. It's to do with the fact we're constantly bringing in players trying to learn the league. For every duck that beautifully glides onto the surface of the water we have one that face-plants into it.

I would also argue we expect these new guys to come in and spark something amongst the current crop. A lot of the pre-exisiting group seemed demoralised after 18months of getting hammered by the opposition under Pardew and Carver. Forced to play a style they didn't want it eventually wore them down to the point where many stopped caring (it's easy to say they should try harder.  That's a tad simplistic though).

All in all, the signings that often succeed are those who are granted the time to adapt and grow into the side. Those who are allowed to learn when is the best time to take a touch, release it, etc. The more we just throw them in and watch them tank, the more we sabotage their confidence. So stop it.

  1. The club/the ideology.

You can often look quite pretentious when you talk about a club's tactical style. I'm sure every fan in the country will define what they want as 'beautiful football'. Slick passing nestled inside of clever movement. Sounds really simple.

The truth is it's not. With that said, the definition of Newcastle's football has often been direct. Realistically there is no issue with that. Ask the Sunderland fans that just picked up six points and they'll agree. Where the issue for us stems from is that you need to buy players to do that and a manager to do that.

This is the only real element you can blame Alan Pardew for. He spent the better part of his time here telling French internationals and those gifted members of the squad to 'go long'. I've heard him scream it from the dugout myself. Again that's fine in theory.

When it's not OK is when you're aiming for Remy Cabella. Or Papiss Cisse. Or pretty much anyone bar Aleksander Mitrovic. The club need to sit down and decide how do we want to play. When they've done that they then need to hire a manager that conforms to it and make sure his players on the whole reflect that style.

To see the contrast in style between Pardew and McClaren is to see a football club that has no idea how it actually wants to play. The current squad is an unfortunate mix of those who want to play it 5 yards and those who want to play it 50 yards.

In many ways this will see us return to point one - recruitment. Steve McClaren wants his football run down the flanks through the full-backs. We only have one good full-back. Massadio Haidara is still wayward and Paul Dummett is one dimensional. In turn that means we funnel everything down the right and leave a huge hole in behind which neither Vurnon Anita or Colback seem willing to fill.

This is also where McClaren fits in. He has to drop Coloccini and he has to work on a tactic that actually makes the most of what we have. His own lack of flexibility is concerning and it would be ignorant to absolve him on the grounds that the players aren't the perfect fit for him. No squad is.

It's telling that our biggest win this season happened when Norwich took off their defensive midfielder. It opened up the game and what happened next was more like a game at the Gateshead Power League than the English Premier League. Tactics and philosophy were gone.

In terms of managers, we've too often gone for who is available rather than who is right. It's akin to those cars you see on the road where the colour of one door panel doesn't match the rest of the car. It's doing a job, it's not there to look pretty. You could easily argue it's the same with the players. Sod 'he's good but he has issues'. Let's just start buying good players, ones that want to be here. Ones that want to prove their worth before the adulation not after it. Players that aren't telling any journalist that has hit record how they would love to play for PSG or in the Champions League.

Such mentalities are destroying the club and will only make it harder for us to attract players, which would in turn mean we have to rely on more academy products.

Which in turn allows me to point out that said ideology must seep into every aspect of the club. At present we sign young lads like Ivan Toney and throw them into the reserves, hoping it is an incubator to their talent. The truth is you have to continue to provide guidance to those players. It's why Gael Bigirimana is now back at Coventry, why the likes of Tamas Kadar, Ole Soderberg, Wes Baheng never amounted to much.

Our support structure simply isn't good enough and I say that having seen it up close. Anyone that makes it into the first team has done it by a mixture of fortune and their own determination. We have immense talent in this region (look at Adam Armstrong), we have also neglected their development for years.

3.) Mike Ashley

I appreciate there are those who will see this man as a disgrace. Who will view him as one of the worst things to happen to this football club. This may be the only time you ever see me compare us to Real Madrid but stick with me. Florentino Perez is often criticised for meddling in the football side of things at the club. What those same critics won't contest is that Perez remains a good businessman. He's done wonders for their commercial side and helped them become a better business.

Mike Ashley – has in parts- done the same. He's cut the wastage at our football club right down. I also think he's cut too much. Our TV channel kind of typifies this. Sunderland's is light years ahead because it clearly has funding. How are we supposed to get connected to players when all we do is read about them in the programme? Things like that are a great avenue to build relationships but he neglects it.

He has also dulled our revenue streams. We've become cheap and tacky. He's essentially gone too far in his cost cutting while also meddling in the football with his parsimony. Then there are those awful Sports Direct adverts for which he pays nothing. Personally if he committed to adding an extra £5million to the transfer kitty I think we'd all be a little bit happier to have them. But the idea that he mugs us off with no spending and those adverts is just an extra kick in the teeth.

It's not as easy as saying 'get rid of him'. He's not paying down our debt and right now we're not really a great investment for a billionaire. The truth is we have to actually communicate with him. The channels of dialogue need to be opened and in some instances apologies are needed on both sides.

Calling him a 'Fat, Cockney, Rapist' was out of order. I don't care if you disagree it was. It was actually quite disgusting and we should be ashamed of whomever applied paint to cloth on that day. I also know it would stop me talking if someone said it of me in public like that and likely with my family in attendance. His last day of the season interview to Sky showed he is human. He's not Scrooge on Christmas Day, but he is human.

This football club is a beautiful sight when you come into the city. I've had many a visitor tell me that. It has to stand for something though and right now it simply doesn't.

I also think he bought this football club with relatively good intentions. He saw it as a great advertising vehicle and a chance to be involved in football. Somewhere along the way that got lost to the point we are at now. How we go about getting that communication I genuinely don't know. Fans' Forums are all well and good but reading the minutes back they still sound very media friendly and like they're bereft of genuine dialogue. I know there is a solution though.

In summary...

This football club is a beautiful sight when you come into the city. I've had many a visitor tell me that. It has to stand for something though and right now it simply doesn't. Instead it's seen as something to laugh at, something to poke fun of, which is not what it was when I began supporting them.

Mention of Kevin Keegan may elicit laughs from neutrals, but by Christ did he get it. Sir Bobby Robson – God rest his soul – got it too. There is no divine right to be near the top of the league or even in it, there is nothing to say that we deserve top four, top two, top of Europe, top of the world. What there is however, is an undeniable fact that when you get 52,000 of us in that stadium, watching eleven players putting in every effort they have to get a victory, something special emerges. Something that gets the hairs on your neck, sends a shiver through you.

If you knew that was there, you'd spend every hour of every day chasing after it and for that reason alone we'll keep coming back, week after week. However it's now time that those at the football club matched our commitment, instead of just relying on it.