The Steve McClaren era at Newcastle United could be facing its imminent demise, according to reports. It was a large gamble in the first place ... the list of coaches who get sacked by Championship clubs for overseeing a collapse that denied even the Promotion playoffs when Promotion seemed the easier result and then end up at a Premier League club is pretty small. Regardless, I had hope upon his appointment, for whatever reason. I hoped that the Steve McClaren who was a rising star within the English managerial world still existed in there somewhere. I hoped that his talk of changing culture on a molecular level would break through the logjam of malaise that blanketed our club. He would not have been my preferred choice out of the raft of names floated in the months following Alan Pardew's departure, but I could see a way that it worked.
The signs were many that the McClaren experiment may just not end up the way we all hoped that it would. Perhaps the fact that the backroom staff wasn't in place until the day of the squad reported back for preseason was something that should have concerned us. The excuses that began to flow from that point certainly did, though. He wasn't really wrong. While I loved getting to see my club in America, it likely was not the most prudent choice that could have been made. There were delays in player acquisition – players meant to be important first-team players brought in improbably close to the beginning of the season. Still, though, things seemed reasonable. Especially with the problems with the way the off season played out, "judge me after 10 games" seemed reasonable. In all fairness, there were some encouraging performances early on. But then...
Progress stopped, and the excuses started. Delusional assessments of performances (the Piss On My Leg And Tell Me It's Raining defense) such as Bournemouth away in which we were played completely off the park but managed to nick a goal and survive the pressure were held up as evidence of the kind of performances that he was looking for. The sad reality is that he wasn't wrong, based on the evidence of other matches. We gave so many "encouraging performances" and were "putting in the hard work". At the end of the day, the reality is that performances and growth stagnated. Whatever it was that broke down did so in spectacular fashion. There were no more "encouraging performances". The club were flatlining. Judge me at the halfway point. You can't truly judge until the end of the season.
The reality is that Newcastle United have effectively topped out at 17th place in the league (a stray early-season week or two aside, perhaps) and have been in the relegation zone for more time than they haven't. They aren't going to get better. McClaren has lost the players and lost the fans. His slow public execution by the NE media has been the last act in an experiment that could have worked out but ended up exactly where it could have been predicted that it would. Now the club are reportedly "immenently" sacking McClaren while they are 'making significant progress" toward the appointment of Rafael Benitez as his successor. With 10 matches left, it's not necessarily too late, but this last-minute gamble is going to have to be the complete anti-McClaren situation. The club are going to have to hope that everything Rafa Benitez touches turns to gold.