After an extremely disappointing campaign last season, Newcastle United are already looking forward to the 2015-16 term under new manager Steve McClaren. The Magpies, who finished 15th in the Premier League in 2015, were tipped to go on and finish in the top 10 last season but failed miserably after Alan Pardew left the club in December. Replacement head coach Jon Carver led Newcastle to their worst ever Premier League run as they plummeted down the league table. It appeared as though the Magpies were destined for the drop but Carver’s side managed to grind out a 2-0 victory over Sam Allardyce’s West Ham United to guarantee their Premier League status, much to the dismay of Hull City, who were relegated to the Championship.
After their catastrophe last season, McClaren’s side will be looking for a much improved performance in this campaign and should be targeting a top 10 finish. At the time of publication, betfair are offering 11/4 on the Magpies to finish in the top half of the table in McClaren’s first season at the helm. The former England manager has the required credentials to suggest that he will succeed at St James’ Park but the jury is still out on the former Derby County boss after the Rams failed to qualify for the playoffs despite sitting at the top of the Championship table in February.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) June 10, 2015
Considering the players that Newcastle United have at their disposal, they have been peripheral underachievers during Mike Ashley’s reign as owner of the club. The likes of Sissoko, Tiote, Cisse, Coloccini and Krul are all solid, reliable players while Ayoze Perez, Remy Cabella and Daryl Janmaat have shown glimpses of quality throughout a difficult first year at the club. In fact, Newcastle have many more established Premier League standard footballers in their ranks. Many suggested the main problem was that these players are excellent individuals but were failing to gel as a team, but there were phenomenal performances throughout the season – including a 2-0 victory over Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea – that would counter that point.
It could be argued that the main problem last season was Jon Carver. The coach certainly showed his passion during his time at the helm but it was clear that he lacked the management skills required to lead a football club. McClaren has gained invaluable experience at some of Europe’s biggest teams – including as Sir Alex Ferguson’s right hand man at Manchester United, boss at FC Twente and even a brief spell as England manager between 2006 and 2007. Although he struggled in his role as Derby County boss, the 54-year-old is more than capable of leading Newcastle United and helping the club climb up the table and competing for trophies in the not-so-distant future.
Newcastle supporters were eagerly anticipating the release of this season’s fixtures on Wednesday as they start to get over the disappointment of the last campaign. However, they may be a little aggrieved after the Magpies were handed a tough opening eight matches to the season. McClaren’s side will face each of last season’s top four throughout a tough period but, if they can earn positive results in these fixtures, they may be able to improve their confidence and build some momentum for a good run of form. The Magpies welcome Southampton on the opening weekend before travelling to the Liberty Stadium to face Swansea City in their first away game of the campaign. Newcastle then travel to Old Trafford for a clash with Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United side before hosting current FA Cup holders Arsenal at St James’ Park. After an away clash with West Ham United, the Magpies have back-to-back home games against newly-promoted Watford and champions Chelsea before their trip to Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City at the start of October.
Although there are no straightforward games in the Premier League, the Magpies have been blessed with an ‘easy’ schedule to close the campaign. They will travel down to Norwich City at the start of April before facing Southampton at St. Mary’s the following weekend. The Magpies welcome Swansea City on April 16th before an away trip to Liverpool. They will host Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace at the end of the month before their final away match of the season against Tim Sherwood’s Aston Villa. For the second successive term, the Magpies will play their final match of the campaign at St James’ Park as they host Tottenham Hotspur. There are a couple of tricky matches in there, but McClaren’s side will be confident of picking up a few victories as they attempt to climb into the Premier League’s top 10.
The Magpies will be confident of a much improved performance this season and will head into August’s encounter with Southampton in buoyant mood. Supporters will be wary of McClaren’s recent record but should ensure that they get behind the team and enthusiastically follow their club this campaign. If Newcastle struggle in the early part of the season and fans begin to voice their frustration, the Magpies could suffer and struggle in a similar fashion to the last campaign. However, Newcastle supporters must be realistic in their hopes for next term and should give McClaren a fair opportunity to show his capabilities as a Premier League manager. McClaren may have struggled in recent times but his experience and tactical nous should give the Magpies an advantage over many of their rivals this campaign as Newcastle hunt a top-10 finish for the third time in five seasons.
by EG Focus