John Carver is the perfect person to lead Newcastle United at this tumultuous time. A Geordie who understands the club, worked side-by-side with Sir Bobby Robson and had high-level head coaching experience in Major League Soccer, Carver seems uniquely poised to handle the Magpies hot seat.
Newcastle United’s “cockney mafia” plus head scout Graham Carr are likely to envision various candidates both domestically and on the continent as preferable to Carver. The strong French presence in the Toon dressing room, which owes itself to Carr’s work, might mean a preference for a French manager, while owner Mike Ashley is likely to want either a sexy name or a manager who is responsive to him.
Carver’s lack of head coaching experience in England could be seen as a drawback. But with fans who are getting more and more uneasy about the direction of the club, Carver —who is a Geordie — could be a nice, clean temporary solution for Ashley. And it’s a job that he wants.
Carver proved in Major League Soccer, where his training methods were ahead of its time, that he can take control of a team and a dressing room. His links to Sir Bobby Robson were seen as a boon when he arrived in North America, a sign of legitimacy for MLS following the David Beckham signing and the addition of several medium-profile players with top European club experience.
Toronto FC didn’t succeed on the pitch during his tenure, but they were more competitive arguably than they have been any other time in their rather sorry history. The uptick and potential was clear for the club, but Carver got out shortly into the 2009 season, which like every other in TFC’s none-year history was underwhelming.
During his tenure in Toronto, Carver introduced more regimented training and worked on tactical drills that many of the players had not seen before. The learning curve was steep and many on the TFC squad, especially American players, were not accustomed to this rigorous and intense training regime. I had the chance to speak to Carver and to Toronto FC players when they trained in South Florida during the 2009 MLS preseason. Carver impressed me to no end; especially compared to the types of coaches you typically see lead North American sides. His tactical knowledge was first rate and his understanding of how to structure a side, lead training and blend in players from different styles, ethnicities and backgrounds together into one cohesive side.
That experience helped Carver become a truly effective number two with Alan Pardew at Newcastle. A Geordie who wears the passion for Newcastle United on his sleeve for everyone to see, Carver proved an important link with the local supporters and with the dressing room. His Toronto experience has helped to develop his understanding of the foreigners who feature for the Magpies. Despite being a Geordie, Carver’s experience in Toronto made him more worldly and he will be able to manage and balance the cosmopolitan Newcastle squad.
Ultimately the decision is owner Mike Ashley’s alone. The departure of Alan Pardew, which was long-sought by many supporters, is now looking like a black eye for Ashley. With the SportsDirect tycoon now embroiled in a fight over control of Rangers, Newcastle fans are getting even more impatient with Ashley’s leadership. It might be wise for him to get the fans back onside or at least neutralized by appointing Carver for the remainder of the current campaign and then making a quick determination in the summer as they continue with him. By that time, Ashley may have moved on himself if some speculation is to be believed and that would give the new owner an opportunity to appoint his own man or continue with Carver.
This being Newcastle United, I am sure they will find a way not to do the right thing. But in my mind, the right move would be to give Carver the job until the end of the season.
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