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The basket case that is the Newcastle United Football Club

COMMENT: Well that can you say really?

It has been a severely inadequate beginning to the new season by Newcastle United.

A season that is supposed to be heading in the opposite direction. North not south.

Steve McClaren's appointment to replace interim manager John Carver was met with an extent of positivity by the Toon faithful.

As with all managerial changes, there is a degree of hostility from the ardent supporters - particularly in the north east - where football is life.

But with McClaren it seemed a little different.

The former England boss was part of successful Manchester United teams in the late 1990s and early 2000s in the form of assistant manager, led Middlesbrough to the 2004 League Cup and also brought home a very first Dutch Eredivisie title to FC Twente in 2010.

A promising yet ultimately fruitless campaign in the Championship with Derby County was McClaren's most recent piece of work before landing the Newcastle job in June.

Fairly swiftly, the 54-year-old got on top of the transfer process, wrestling back the control from much-maligned owner Mike Ashley and duly nabbing a quartet of quality players including PSV Eindhoven captain and Dutch Player of the Year Georginio Wijnaldum (for around £15million), hot-headed Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic (£13m), promising French winger Florian Thauvin (£12m) and Belgian defender Chancel Mbemba (£8.5m).

Everything seemed rosy as the Magpies prepared for the looming campaign with a trip to the US.

Even if the early results in the summer were not as planned, McClaren was confident of turning things around for the Toon.

Optimism filled the air at St James' Park when Southampton turned up for the opening fixture of the season on August 9.

The result was a 2-2 draw. It wasn't the victory that many had hoped for but at least a positive performance which saw Papiss Cisse joined by debutant Wijnaldum on the scoresheet.

Maybe a couple of defensive woes but that's to be expected when new players are gelling together.

Fast forward six weeks and the Magpies are trapped in a mire.

Six matches have been played by the men in black and white since the draw with Saints and only one win has been cultivated - an expected 4-1 scoreline over League Two Northampton Town in the Capital One Cup.

Wednesday night's toothless league cup third round defeat at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday is yet another low in what is proving to be a catastrophe of a campaign for McClaren.

Sure, there have been some commendable displays against Manchester United and Arsenal but we are not talking about a non-league team here.

Newcastle should be mixing it with these bigger clubs on a regular basis.

Almost 35,00 fans showed up to watch their side in a midweek cup fixture. Surely the players can give a bit more than they did?

Ok, it may take a little bit of time to bed in the summer arrivals, and eventually the Magpies may come good, but you don't see West Ham United faltering with a host of fresh faces.

Daryl Janmaat aside, and possibly Tim Krul, it is hard to pay tribute to any Newcastle players thus far and things need to change as quickly as possible to avoid another mutiny at the Gallowgate end.

McClaren said he was not embarrassed after the loss to the Owls. I can tell you Steve, the Magpies fans walking around on Tyneside on Thursday sure will be. Who would want to own up to being a Newcastle fan right now?

He has asked the players to come out fighting in Saturday's home clash with Chelsea.

It provides no better a stage for this proud club to respond to their early-season woes by giving the reigning Premier League champions a run for their money on home soil.

Even the most avid Magpies fan would not forecast a victory over Jose Mourinho's Blues but a desperate fight filled with character and spirit is the very least McClaren's lot can offer.

Start with that, Newcastle, and you will quickly win back the hearts and imaginations of those who may have already turned off.

Anything less, and you can watch the disaster unfold in front of you Mr McClaren.

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Andrew Slevison
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Andrew Slevison

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