Over-Reliance on Graham Carr Must End at Newcastle United

Newcastle United’s transfer policy has been in the spotlight following a disastrous start to the 2015/16 League and Cup campaigns. Optimism was rife following a summer of shrewd acquisition with pleasantly surprising captures of Georginio Wijnaldum, Aleksandar Mitrović, and Chancel Mbemba. An exciting full debut from Florian Thauvin also followed positive draws against Southampton and Manchester United.

But, the wheels have rapidly come off; the all too familiar sinking feeling has quickly returned. Currently sitting bottom of the Premier League, the same problems that have riddled the club in the last few seasons are still at the forefront. Do Newcastle have the character, first and foremost, and the mental strength and desire to turn the situation around for good?

There have been many frustrating performances from Newcastle thus far this season, and some rather due to the good fortune and better playmaking from opposing side. For instance, Sergio Agüero was scintillating in that 6-1 drubbing at the Etihad, but Newcastle allowed him to be in a remarkable second half collapse all too reminiscent of numerous pitiful defeats dating back to 2013. January of that year saw the ‘French Revolution’ on Tyneside, and a blistering start to with wins over Aston Villa and Chelsea propelled chief scout Graham Carr firmly into the limelight.


Over-Reliance on Graham Carr Must End at Newcastle United
Already revered and rewarded for the capture of the sublime Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa, Graham Carr had seemingly continued his hot streak as Mathieu Debuchy, Moussa Sissoko, Yoan Gouffran, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, and Massadio Haïdara were rushed into Newcastle Airport to save a toiling season years ago. For example, £1.5 million man, Sissoko, flung in a match-winning home debut, which left everyone wondering just how Carr kept doing it.

But, as foreign imports flooded the line-up, the side began its run of susceptibility to feeble defeats. A 6-0 crushing at home to Liverpool and the 3-0 Derby misery are defeats which have regularly been followed up to present day. From having almost the perfect balance of British and foreign talent in the Champions League-chasing campaign of 2011/12, Newcastle spent two of the next three seasons firmly battling relegation as overseas arrivals continuously arrived.

Now, I am not being derogatory towards foreign players or understating their positive impact on the English game, I just believe clubs should have at least three or four British players in starting elevens; players who understand the environment, the club, the supporters, and the league from day one. Not one player in the side that faced Manchester City was British and, once again, as soon as Newcastle went behind, the outcome was a formality. Some of the hardest working players in the league are foreign, but Newcastle’s current crop lacks the ability to take a game by the scruff of the neck.

The lack of British and Premier League experience at Newcastle United is clearly not lost on Steve McClaren, who, this week, made something of a public plea to Lee Charnley and Mike Ashley when he stated that work needed to be done in January with a different approach. The Head Coach is crying out for Premier League experience; players who know just what it means to wear the shirt and fight for the cause.

Much of the blame has to be directed at the club’s ‘sell’ to these players. Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson used to enthusiastically pitch the club, the supporters, the stadium, the project. Now, players are sold a stepping stone in their careers; a lift up to ‘bigger’ clubs who may offer Champions League or more appealing wage packets. Would Cabaye, Sissoko, Debuchy, and Daryl Janmaat have joined if it wasn’t seen as an opportunity to showcase themselves to other clubs?

Yes, Carr did brilliantly to identify these players, but continuously dipping into the affordable foreign market is having ramifications on Newcastle’s potential status in the country’s top league. The undoubted quality of these players has been enough to simply ‘get the job done’ when it really comes down to it (for instance, the final game of last season), but the lack of collective purpose means that the club simply cannot progress from current mediocrity.

The stepping stone policy has become a damaging culture which has transpired into a losing one. Too many players will go missing for much of the season, but conveniently put it all on the line when the big clubs come to town. Just look at how well Newcastle fared against Chelsea at home, or some of the impressive performances against Manchester United and Arsenal. Yet, the same side will meekly roll over once going behind against the rest of the league. They lack the consistency needed to be anything of a success in the Premier League.

The over-reliance on Carr’s European scouting has seen too many expensive gambles taking the place of suitable British options or burgeoning academy talents. So far it hasn’t worked out for Emmanuel Rivière or Remy Cabella; and Thauvin is increasingly becoming like a Cabella clone.

Mitrović and Wijnaldum have the potential to offer as much as the likes of Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye did, they really do. Ayoze Pérez has tremendous potential, but how long are Newcastle likely to keep hold of him when the offers come in that tempt the purse strings of Mike Ashley?

Graham Carr doesn’t need replacing; he needs to be allowed to look for prospects closer to home or in the Premier League. It is too much to ask to pull out players of the quality and immediate impact of Cabaye every time?

Furthermore, the fans don’t want to see players brought in just to be sold in a couple of years. Hopefully the newly-formed board will mean that Steve McClaren will have the influence over signings that Alan Pardew wasn’t afforded, and players can be brought in who can bring stability and creativity to an unpredictable squad.

McClaren was surely frustrated at the lack of pursuit for Charlie Austin in the summer. It is typical of Newcastle that they will likely attempt to sign Austin in January, when he is more ‘affordable’, though; a proven Premier League goal-scorer at £15m is simply a snip in the modern game. Who is to say that Austin will choose Newcastle over other suitors in January, anyway? Newcastle could likely be left with egg on their face once again when the striker undoubtedly would have fancied it in the summer.

The club are continuing to acknowledge the need for an improved approach, but let’s hope they haven’t left themselves too much to do come the next recruitment window.

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