Saturday 24 February 2018

John Giles: Change in attitude can have drastic results as Newcastle proved

Georginio Wijnaldum celebrates scoring his side's second goal
Georginio Wijnaldum celebrates scoring his side's second goal

Herald Sport

Newcastle United are never far away from a dewy eyed portrayal as the plucky underdog in a perpetual battle against the forces of fate and right on cue, Steve McClaren caught a break against Liverpool when all seemed lost.

I’m always suspicious of an underdog tag. Sure, there are situations when players rise far above themselves in one game or even an FA Cup run and sink back into the pack never to be heard of again.

It’s like the one-hit wonder syndrome with music or a lucky streak businessman who rises rapidly and falls spectacularly. All the stars align to give someone who would not normally make it big a chance and for a brief moment, they are able to grab it.

My belief has always been a simple one in this area. If you can rise to a high standard once, you can do it again and if you have the right attitude and do the right amount of work, you can do it again and again.

Every good professional footballer must rise in the morning with this attitude and go to sleep with the same way of thinking.

If you want a perfect example of it, look at Jon Walters. Everything about him is ready to go to work. He is fully committed, fully switched on and follows orders given to the letter.

He didn’t learn how to be that way. It is a gift he was born with it, but he did learn how to be consistent with it. That’s the secret.

Newcastle United’s history is riddled with chapters like this one. I’ve talked too often in the past about the incompetence, greed and wishful thinking which has caused several generations of frustration for very loyal fans and this is what it always leads to.

Against Liverpool, players who couldn’t or wouldn’t walk in the same direction at the same time if they were asked to, suddenly found a way to play. They rose above themselves and passionate fans can only respond in one way to that.

I’d love to know where this resolve and passion has been hiding. I don’t blame Steve McClaren for his inability to find it because he didn’t buy the players and a line of managers before him didn’t either.

So neither he nor they had any idea about the players they were coaching. They were all working from scratch.

All new managers are working in the dark when they take their first training session but if the man who preceded him had control over transfers, there’s a better than good chance that he won’t have to worry too much about the core character of the players he inherits.

There’s a great example of that sitting at the top of the Premier League at the moment. I didn’t much like Nigel Pearson’s manner on occasion but I think he ran a very tight ship and all the lads he signed were there to work and win if they could.

Claudio Raneiri is working with players who are hungry and talented and their remarkable run this season is as much about Pearson as it is about the Italian.

It was no easy thing to pick up the challenge in circumstances like Leicester’s but Raineiri had a head start. He had a squad with attitude, the right attitude.

Jurgen Klopp is another case in point. He is operating with a squad which was bought by a committee of six people and will need some time to work out what makes his players tick.

So far, they are following his lead but he found out against Newcastle that the weakness he identified within the squad from the outside looking in and then in a more real way when he took over at Anfield, is still present.

When six people pick a player, the manager’s own instinct is diluted and in the case of Mario Balotelli, ignored completely.

That’s the name Klopp should remember and remind himself about when he sits down to talk about transfers, as I’m sure he has done already.

It’s very hard to tell six powerful people that they are not needed any more and very easy to agree to all sorts of things when you’re desperate for what Klopp has to offer.

I like everything I see about Klopp and Liverpool have been reborn under him but he should never underestimate humankind’s capacity to do stupid things at exactly the wrong time.

He should keep his wits about him and particularly next month.

Herald Sport

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