Newcastle United face a blank fixture weekend, courtesy of Ashley’s extended run of self-determined failure in the FA Cup. As a member of the board, Steve McClaren as well as Ashley himself both have the opportunity to reflect on what is needed to achieve safety. 

The pressing feature of the coming week is the transfer window. We have already set out here some of the glaring areas of the squad that need attention. McClaren may be stirring things up behind the scenes. To be honest, he has to. 

Newcastle United are not a team in form. Looking back at Carver’s period in charge, the side gained 3 wins out of 19. McClaren before the end of 2015, following the addition of £50m worth of talent, achieved 4 wins in 19. 

We have heard from Newcastle managers and senior personnel in the past. There have been different models that apparently, Ashley has sought to emulate. One of those has been Arsenal but without the expenditure. Another was Villa and look where they are now. 

Fresh from the 3rd defeat of the season against Watford, McClaren once again outwitted by a successful young foreign manager, the problems are there for all to see. Once again, the defensive set up proved porous on the flanks. Too few chances were created. Of those that were created, too few were finished. 

The next week is the last of the transfer window. Toontoon.co.uk have already identified what should happen in the January window here. What happens this week will be pivotal to our chances of survival. 

As things stand, we are in the relegation zone with just one clubs above us, Norwich within a win. Bournemouth and Swansea are within two wins. With only 4 wins in the first half of the season, it goes without saying that to maintain the same form will ensure relegation. 

McClaren might point at 4 points from the last 3 games as survival form. His critics will point at the 4 points from 7 games. The focus has to be on how to catch at least one of the teams ahead. 

His managerial record is there for all to see. At Middlesbrough, he achieved survival, even a top 10 place once, when backed by a free spending owner. His last 4 homes have met with failure. There seems to have been no speculation linking him with another Premier League club over the intervening years, perhaps the legacy of his England tenure might have been an influence. 

The simple message is that if McClaren fails here, his future career is more likely to be in punditry. 

So far in the transfer window, we have welcomed the arrival of Shelvey, a player who has shown that he can help those in front of him to tick. Having said that, the team still needs to have balance, thus giving the midfield general options ahead of him. 

So some progress has been made. We have also seen the arrival of Saivet, undoubtedly a good player but seemingly a direct replacement for Tiote. The only thing that Saivet lacks is Premier League experience. 

This is a competitive league and two of the teams in range are newly promoted. Both have stayed above the relegation zone for most of the season. They have already strengthened. 

Bournemouth have added a goal scoring threat in the shape of Afobe from Wolves. When top striker Callum Wilson is fit, they will have a formidable threat up front. Perhaps we were fortunate to play them when we did, coming away with a 1-0 win from our only shot on target. 

Norwich too have strengthened. Naismith’s debut against Liverpool suggested that they can push on. The rest of the bottom 7 have all replaced their managers this season already. 

Newcastle have to progress somehow. That progress has to outstrip some of our opponents. That progress has to come in one of 3 ways, improvements from within, new players and/or a new manager. 

The situation has been obvious, to those outside St James’ Park at least. In many ways, McClaren has been a clone of Carver and Pardew before them. One of the quotes from Rolando Aarons suggests a continued air of negativity: “we thought we were going to like, go out and kill the game off because we thought we had the stronger team”. 

Killing the game off, when you have failed to score in more than half your away games, leads to a maximum of 1 point. The deployment of Aarons against Watford also highlights another problem. Here is a talented winger who was in a more defensive role. It has been rare for McClaren to deploy a winger in an offensive capacity. 

Opponents have rarely been teased with the sort of wide attacking options the McClaren’s Newcastle are so vulnerable to. 

So in the transfer market, 2 pressing needs are obvious. Strikers need ammunition, therefore a winger who can make an immediate impact is required. Similarly, a striker with Premier League experience is also a necessity. Southampton have already poached Austin, who had an immediate effect at Old Trafford. 

Talented as Ayoze and Mitrovic are, they lack experience. Cisse is proving frail after some big injuries. It is a sad indictment of Ashley and Charnley’s transfer policy that behind Cisse’s 36 Premier League goals, the next top scorers in this league are Shelvey and Steve Taylor with 12 apiece. 

This leads us to another quote from McClaren this weekend:  “I mean at present we've got Manu Riviere coming back, and other players who can score" McClaren obviously didn’t witness what 50,000 Geordies did on a regular basis last season. The striker who effectively replaced Shola Ameobi scored from a solitary piece of fortune against QPR in the last campaign. 

Talking of which, Shola is a free agent again. Surely Charnley can’t be thinking ……….? The Mackem slayer could make the difference in a 6 pointer to come! 

The other option for the board is to switch model. Leicester are a shining example of one of the clubs promoted since Newcastle, having pushed on and  ditched one of the English managers aged 50+ for a successful and experienced overseas coach. 

On a weekend when the last of the English managers slipped into the bottom half of the table, we are reminded that adding the Premier League’s pace to guile is more effective than negative tactics to pace. 

We have of course highlighted in a previous piece here that there is managerial talent available. With 19 points needed from 15 games, Ashley has a bullet to bite. It takes a big man to admit a mistake and nobody can doubt that Ashley is a very big man. 

It is time to get the players in to provide the manager with options. Over a 10 day break it is then time to let a quality manager have time to organise the squad into a team fit for purpose. 

Come on Ashley, you know it makes sense. This time next season you could be guaranteed £120m more than if relegated.