The man with the most incredibly mesmerising hair in football is having a nightmare in the North East, as he leads Newcastle and their lofty ambitions gradually and depressingly to the pits of the Premier League. Since arriving at St James’ Park, McClaren has won just three matches from 16 in all competitions – and picked up just 10 points from his first 14 league games.
They’ve managed to ship 30 goals along the way, and if it wasn’t for Aston Villa’s ability to make football look harder than buttering toast, they’d be plum bottom of the league. As it is, Newcastle are languishing in 19th, two points away from safety and their nearest but least dearest rivals Sunderland.
Rewind little more than 12 months ago, and Newcastle fans were up in arms about manager Alan Pardew, and hurriedly ripping off their mother’s bedsheets to use as protest banners. But as sales of marker pens rocketed, Pardew was guiding Newcastle to 20 points from 14 games – exactly double what Steve McClaren has been able to achieve. So could this weekend’s clash with Liverpool be the final nail in Steve’s coffin?
The main difference between the two gaffers, bar the points and Pardew’s lovely smile, is the amount of goals McClaren’s Newcastle are conceding. The Magpies have conceded two or more goals in 71 per cent of their top flight games this season, more than any other side in the Premier League, while Fabricio Coloccini is doing a fantastic job of intimidating a real-life top flight centre-back. We can see through you, our little curly-haired scamp.
The other big notable point for loyal Newcastle punters is that if you’d been sticking £10 on the Magpies every week this season, you’d be down a painful £83.00. While last season, Pardew’s Newcastle would have pocketed you a profit of £17.50 after the opening 14 games – hardly huge dollar, but enough for a few Christmas pints this festive season and considerably better than a hefty loss of almost three figures.
And it doesn’t get any easier for McClaren, as Liverpool roll into St James’ Park on Super Sunday. Five years ago, before Jurgen Klopp was an internet hipster, he was forging a career at Borussia Dortmund and taking on Steve McClaren’s Wolfsburg team. Dortmund rolled into town, won 3-0, and went on to become Bundesliga champions – McClaren was sacked the following week after just 24 games in charge. Could lightening strike twice? Very much so if McClaren keeps waving that umbrella around, and he’s 6/5 to be the next manager to get the boot. Liverpool are to pick up a 3-0 victory in the North East.
One tiny, hint of a silver lining in the horribly heavy clouds looming over Newcastle, is that when they get beat, particularly when they get beat at home, it isn’t quite a hammering. Yes, so since the start of last season they’ve lost more than half of their league matches (52 per cent to be exact) but at St James’ Park 70 per cent of their losses have only been by a single goal. See – a very small hint of a silver lining. It’s for Liverpool to win 1-0 on Sunday, or for them to pick up a 2-1 victory.
If you’re looking for a bit more spice on Sunday, then look no further than the returning Daniel Sturridge. The star striker showed no signs of rustiness when he bagged two goals in the space of four minutes against Southampton in the League Cup on Wednesday, plus dancing Danny has four goals in just three matches for Liverpool against Newcastle.
While Sturridge is a shot to open the scoring and a poke to score at anytime, the 20/1 scorecast on Sturridge to score first in a 2-1 win for Liverpool has us giddier than a field full of geese.
Unfortunately, that probably means the door for Steve…