Monday 22 January 2018

A broken club at war with itself

Carver turns on his players as Newcastle fans vent their fury

Newcastle fans show their displeasure during the defeat at Leicester
Newcastle fans show their displeasure during the defeat at Leicester

Dion Fanning

For a club that has been a model for footballing austerity, Newcastle United's survival in the Premier League is now dependent on the kindness of strangers.

If the teams below them in the table bail out Mike Ashley's side it won't be what his club deserve and it probably won't be what Newcastle United need.

Ashley's Newcastle have provided a self-contained example of what austerity and mediocrity can do when they combine to shun any notions of creativity or imagination. The erosion of the human spirit, the wilful ignorance about what a football club means to a community are irrelevant when faced with a rampant and destructive ideology.

Newcastle ended the day a club at war with themselves. The supporters had turned on the players at the final whistle and then the manager John Carver turned on the players too, accusing Mike Williamson, one of two Newcastle players sent off, of having done so deliberately.

It was an astonishing accusation from the manager who questioned the desire of the rest of his team, making an exception of Jack Colback, but that might not be considered enough on the man-management front.

Carver said he couldn't disagree with the supporters who called the team gutless and spineless. "If I was sitting in the stand with them, I'd be doing the same thing." He refused to comment when asked if the team cared.

This was supposed to be a day which would examine the credentials of Nigel Pearson but, by the end, he seemed like Manuel Pellegrini compared to Carver.

Carver admitted it would now be difficult for him to get the players to play for him, which seemed like a nicely surreal end to an afternoon which had highlighted how much trouble Newcastle United are in.

For two seconds at the King Power Stadium yesterday, their game-plan was working but that was all it took for Leicester City and Jamie Vardy to hunt down the ball and from then until the end, it was a question of how many Pearson's side could score.

They had their first after 36 seconds and Newcastle ended the game with nine men with Williamson and Daryl Janmaat dismissed, but it was hard to notice a difference when they had 11.

As the squad made their way onto the coach after the game, Newcastle fans screamed "cowards" at them. "You're not fit to wear the shirt," they had chanted as the players left the field. If this is what the prudent way to run a football club looks like, football might need a different model.

Ashley's gamble that there are three teams worse than Newcastle may yet come off but they are paying the price for their hardline beliefs and their failure to adequately replace Alan Pardew.

When Pardew left Newcastle shortly after Christmas, they were in tenth place and 13 points ahead of Leicester City, Today, after their eighth successive defeat, they are one point ahead of them but the clubs are heading in different directions.

The run-up to the game may have been a compelling advertisement for the Premier League's ability to produce endlessly entertaining backstories. Pearson had briefly managed to make Newcastle United appear the well-run club after his latest strange attempt to out-manoeuvre journalists but the truth about his team could be seen on the field.

"There's only one Nigel Pearson," the home fans sang and while representative bodies for journalists might have been happy to hear this, the supporters were recognising the commitment, organisation and spirit of the side which has won five of its last six games.

Pearson pointed out that Newcastle are still one point ahead of Leicester but in every other regard, he could be happy with how his week had ended.

Carver had an interesting week as well. He denied using bad language when he had argued with supporters after the defeat at home to Swansea but he had invited two of the fans for a "two-way conversation" at the training ground.

"We told him he wasn't good enough as a manager, we didn't say the actual words because that would be disrespectful, but we said the club wasn't doing well and that's down to the manager," one of the supporters, Allen O'Connell, told the Evening Chronicle.

By the time, the Newcastle supporters started chanting 'We want Ashley out,' Carver himself might have been prepared to agree with the supporters' assessment.

They had also offered a damning assessment of Williamson, but not as damning or as destructive as Carver's as he reflected on a game which was lost after a minute.

Newcastle seemed totally unprepared for the atmosphere and, more importantly, the attacking intent of Leicester. Wes Morgan scored the second from another set-piece and Leonardo Ulloa made sure of the points with a penalty at the beginning of the second half.

All that remained was the Newcastle disintegration. Williamson and Janmaat picked up second yellows and Leicester had countless chances and when they missed those chances, Newcastle would present them with another.

Afterwards Pearson was able to make the compelling case that what happens in the press conference is not indicative of the work he is doing at the club.

That seemed to be that until Carver walked in and made a compelling case that everything he was saying to the media was a perfect example of what happens when a club is being torn apart.

Sunday Indo Sport

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