The Agenda: How can NUFC rediscover their momentum?

Newcastle United's humbling defeat at the hands of Manchester City raises the question of how they can rediscover their momentum

Yaya Toure of Manchester City scores against Newcastle United
Yaya Toure of Manchester City scores against Newcastle United

Only two things can now offer Newcastle United short-term salvation: new players and points.

The good news is they are capable of gathering both. Alan Pardew might have seen his pre-season pledges dissolve in the heat of a sky blue onslaught on Monday, but West Ham is a more realistic challenge. The pressure is on to strike the right note, both tactically and in terms of selection.

The bad news is as much as points and players might salve the wounds of Monday night’s Etihad humbling, there are more profound problems beginning to unravel at St James’ Park. Issues, it has to be said, which might not be eradicated by the simple act of beating West Ham or finally brokering a deal for a striker.

When Mike Ashley surveyed the wreckage of last season, he correctly concluded changes were required to inject fresh impetus into a club which had veered badly off course over 12 dispiriting months.

Newcastle had limped towards safety looking dishevelled and demoralised and sorely in need of a catalyst to improve the situation.

Be it a new coach, top-class recruits or even a change at the top, Ashley had to act. The status quo would surely not do after such an alarming slide.

Ashley’s reaction was so far left-field it might as well have come from Mars.

By altering the management structure and bringing in his friend Joe Kinnear to a new role which is effectively second in command to himself, he has created problems rather than solving them.

For all his faults, when Derek Llambias was managing- director there was a sense of direction and purpose to United’s work.

There were profound reservations about the club’s unwillingness to bend in the transfer market, but we knew the club’s recruitment philosophy and there was a clear chain of command.

In its place we now have Kinnear, working from London and wherever else with over-arching authority over a club which he knows little about.

No one is really sure what the club stands for anymore - the messages from the director of football have been so muddled as to render them almost obsolete.

When he first took the job, Kinnear hinted at some sort of influence in first-team matters (while stating clearly Alan Pardew remained manager, to be fair).

He also described other powers he would have in his new job.

In practice, he has done little of this. Two weeks ago he left the North East after taking in the Braga game without, apparently, having spoken to Pardew.

What he has done is spend a great deal of time with agents trying to negotiate deals.

Yet his job title – as made clear by the club at the time of his appointment – was that everyone would report to Joe. So on Ashley’s command, everyone is looking to the director of football for direction which is not forthcoming.

At the moment, the club look listless. It is telling no player has mentioned Kinnear in any interview and even Pardew choses his words carefully when asked about the director of football. The fragile consensus at the club looks worryingly brittle. No wonder they are struggling to sign players, although this log-jam may be solved this week by Ashley taking more direct command of the situation.

He has apparently been heavily involved in the initial round of Yohan Cabaye negotiations and it is to be hoped he is now taking the counsel of those who are already at the club who he trusts.

He might begin by releasing more funds in the next few days.

The Cabaye situation seems to have been the trigger for more action and it is quite possible this is what Ashley was waiting for, having recognised the need to restructure the squad but having been unwilling to sanction the spending.

Newcastle have been working on deals for two players in the last few days - a striker and a left winger.

To that add a central midfielder now it looks like Cabaye will be the latest of United’s crown jewels to be taken off them.

They need that. New players would give Newcastle fresh optimism and a bit of the vitality Manchester City had on Monday.

It would also change the agenda too, lifting the pressure on Pardew by giving everyone something else to talk about other than the abject surrender.

It is only a short-term fix, though. Three new players will not be a recipe for long-term success at St James’ – it will just stave off the next slump.

Signings will not give the club clarity or purpose again: only good management will.

Only giving Newcastle fans a feeling of unity with their club and a sense they can hope for more than just staying in the division will reduce the fatalism and depression that hangs over St James’ Park.

It sounds hopeless but there are good and talented people who work at Newcastle United who have the best interests of the club at heart.

Those who are not in it for themselves.

Ashley is shrewd enough to know who they are: now is the time to start listening to them.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer