Steve McClaren looks like he’s on the brink of being sacked as Newcastle United manager, with a 3-1 home loss to Bournemouth potentially proving the final straw for owner Mike Ashley.
The fans have long accused McClaren of incompetence. Results have rarely been good enough, performances have jumped from one extreme to the other, and Newcastle are in real danger of relegation – they sit second bottom, although have a game in hand over those above them.
Fixtures against Norwich and Sunderland in the coming weeks – two teams just above them – could prove pivotal to their survival.
Here’s the story of Newcastle’s season so far, told through the manager’s face.
1. McClaren spent the first game of the season looking disgruntled, at best. The expression on the faces of those around him tell the story of how the team was performing at that particular moment.
McClaren spent most of his time at Derby in the stands rather than the dugout, and his time at Newcastle started off the same. You can tell what he thought about the ending to the first game of the season, a 2-2 draw against Southampton that saw the Magpies hanging on in extra time.
2. The fans have probably been less than encouraged by the bewildered expression often seen around St James’ Park.
It didn’t take long for the former England boss to make the transition from stand to dugout, with a 2-0 loss to Swansea proving too much to watch from up high.
3. Here’s McClaren trying not to show how awkward it must’ve been to once again share a touchline with Slaven Bilic.
Facing up to Bilic, the man in charge of Croatia during two defeats that saw England fail to qualify for Euro 2008 under McClaren’s tutelage, can’t have been great. Bilic has outperformed McClaren again, both in terms of recruitment and getting his team to perform on the pitch.
4. Sometimes McClaren could barely bring himself to watch.
Arguably the lowest point for Newcastle came a few games after the West Ham loss, as the Magpies lost a League Cup game to Championship side Sheffield Wednesday – who didn’t even put out a full-strength side.
5. This would have been an interesting conversation to listen to.
McClaren’s team put in their best performance so far under him against reigning champions Chelsea, only to see their two-goal advantage nullified late on.
6. The gaffer didn’t want anyone to see his reddening cheeks at the Etihad.
This is where the pattern of Newcastle’s season rally started to become clear – looking like a competent, capable Premier League side one week, and then completely hapless the next. We’re of course talking about the 6-1 loss to Man City.
7. We think this is McClaren congratulating his team.
We hope he congratulated them, because that 6-1 loss was followed by a 6-2 victory.
8. McClaren’s braying scream here is still echoing around distant parts of the galaxy.
He became the latest Newcastle manager to succumb to defeat to Sunderland. By three goals to nil.
9. Racking his brain for ideas to improve the team, McClaren decided channelling Louis van Gaal was the best option.
The 5-1 loss to Crystal Palace would suggest a different route should have been explored.
10. McClaren showed his hipster credentials against Tottenham, inviting Steven Avery to a match a whole week before Making A Murderer even streamed on Netflix.
He chose a good game too – with Newcastle following up their 2-0 win over Liverpool with a 2-1 victory against Spurs.
11. 2016 hasn’t been kind to Newcastle, but somehow McClaren and his assistant Paul Simpson still manage to look surprised by what they see.
There’s only so many times conceding five goals can be surprising to you, but the duo were still looking a bit baffled when it happened against Chelsea.
12. And since then McClaren has been looking increasingly more exasperated.
13. More adjectives? Helpless. Woeful. Resigned…