At the start of the season, Steve McClaren asked to be judged after 12 games. We are 8 down and 4 to go. We may not be judging but that doesn’t stop us giving pointers.

This time last year, Pardew had asked for 10 games. At the time, we were managed by someone who no other Premier League club would appoint with one cup final to his name and one top half finish in the top flight, we started our season with 7 league games without a win but two League cup victories, after all, we had not faced the might of Wednesday’s reserves. Janmaat was our most progressive player. As the French members of our squad would say “plus ca change …..”

Pre-season was not the most useful but could have given some idea of where we were going. It didn’t help that the main tour to America did not include key signings. Nevertheless, 2 wins out of 7, those being against Sacramento Republic and the Heed, did not augur well.

Transfer activity

At the end of last season, we identified here what was needed to improve the squad. In short, a minimum net £50m investment was identified to make up for the lost years under Ashley.

We just about got that. Seeing where the cash was spent, however, did not quite tally with where we saw the need to strengthen. We also saw Ashley sticking to the policy of buying young. 3 of the 5 signings are technically under 21.

Wijnaldum is an apparent triumph, a skilled player with World Cup pedigree. As we identify perennially, it takes time for new players to settle in and to adapt to the pace and physicality of the Premier League. In this case, we support McClaren’s assertion not to judge too early.

Up front, we have Mitrovic and Toney, although it is to be seen whether the latter will feature in the first team squad or go on loan. Mitrovic has given insight into his physicality and aggression, picking up cards faster than James Perch at the start of his NUFC career.

Mbemba looks to be a great prospect, reading the game well and confident, even when out of position. Thauvin has undoubtedly enhanced the WAG scene in the North East, impressed against Northampton as a potential Ben Arafa but reminded us of Cabella against West Ham. Time will tell if he can be the new Ginola.

On the outgoing, we have seen a new trick, left sided Sammy, Ferguson and Vuckic going out on loan with contract extensions, presumably to ensure future value. Likewise, Armstrong has been loaned to Coventry to gain experience.

We also asserted that £100m was necessary to make progress rather than stand still. So far, that assessment seems to remain valid. At least there were no major sales, with Captian Colo’s contract also extended.

Management and structure

Having campaigned for years with the club to strengthen the management structure, we can not complain in principle about the elevation of the manager to the football board at the club.

Similarly, we offered the name of Bobby Moncur to the powers that be several years ago. We were not the biggest supporters of McClaren, seeing him as a Pardew with decency.

Yes, we would have preferred a young British manager with progressive ideas, we would have preferred a foreign coach with a fresh approach but we got the Wally with or without a brolly. We wish him all the best in proving us wrong. It is up to the new board to throw their weight around and hold Ashley to account.

At least McClaren has progressed from Pardew’s notepad to a set of files. We also have perhaps our signing of the summer, Ian Cathro who brings progressive ideas to a stale formula.

Tactics and selection

There is ostensibly little change from Parver or Cardew here. For almost every fixture we have seen a standard 4-2-3-1 formation. We have also seen what we saw last year, wingers cutting in on their wrong side, Obertan on the left then Thauvin on the right.

Defensively, we have seen Mbemba step up to replace Williamson with Taylor the deputy. On the whole, Colo has seemed more confident with a quality sidekick, with Haidara claiming the left whilst Dummett is injured.

Midfield has the same set up as last term, Anita and Colback playing the holding roles. Sissoko remains the roving box-to-box player, also drifting wide-ish, with Wijnaldum effectively replacing Gouffran.

League Cup aside, the choice up front has been Cisse or Mitrovic, the latter seemingly prepared to work all over the field, the former being denied the service that made him effective in seasons past. McClaren has also toyed with Ayoze.

We have seen the Cathro influence in a defence that has been largely well organised. We have also started to see one of the holding midfielders, typically Anita, sit back in defence whilst the full backs provide width.

Fixtures so far

It has been a tough start to the season. Southampton have become a benchmark, overtaking us somewhat since their series of promotions since they sacked Pardew. 2-2 at home suggests that we may have arrested the deficit since the 2-1 home defeat last year. The goal by Long, who Pardew dismissed as not being up to Newcastle standards, accentuated the myopic transfer policy until now as well as defensive frailties.

Swansea saw arguably the most likely prospect for next England manager plot McClaren’s downfall, albeit with Janmaat’s sending off. Goals against coming from former Newcastle target, Gomis, as well as someone who “did not provide value”, Ayew, further accentuated our decline in status.

There will be no complaints at the battling 0-0 draw at Old Trafford. Mitrovic signalled talent whilst the defence deserved their luck. The home defeat against Arsenal also showed promising commitment with some bad luck for the goal against. West Ham on the other hand provided some provocation of thought. We at would have welcomed Bilic to the North East. We saw a well disciplined side break at pace, inflicting the same result on McClaren as Bilic did for Croatia in the rain. We saw a need to progress.

Watford saw a variation from the 4-2-3-1 against another manager who would be welcome here. It also saw a lack of fight. If promoted teams are odds on to be in the relegation zone, what does that make us?

Chelsea and City provided hope in spells, McClaren reverting to 2 up front. The quality gap between the bargain basement and Aguerro was gaping.

Interim verdict

We shall take a closer look at the squad in the coming week. So far, the jury remains out, seeking further evidence. Although bottom of the table, we recognise the difficult start to the season and the somnolent atmosphere that has been created by years of neglect and profiteering from Ashley.

Results may have been poor but attitude has not always been. McClaren should be given some breathing space, especially after Ashley and Charnley’s failures to get talent “over the line” previously.

We shall judge after 12 league games, two more than McClaren lasted at Forest (including a League Cup extra time defeat against NUFC). We sincerely hope he will establish himself as a genuine prospect to take Newcastle United into the future. That needs some results.

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