It would appear that Steve McClaren reign as Newcastle manager has cast a long shadow at the club. McClaren, who's currently back on the managerial merry-go-round after spending a couple of months as a "coaching consultant" at Maccabi Tel Aviv, was sacked by Newcastle in Match 2016 after less than a year in charge.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, the club's captain Jamaal Lascelles was very candid about the former England manager's ill-fated stint at the club. He recalls an incident where the players refused to leave the coach for the then manager:
The players' heads were all over the place back then. Yes, it (dissent) was there. Completely. It was bad. Steve is obviously a well-respected manager but there is only so much you can do when you have 20 players refusing to do things and not taking anything seriously.
It seems surreal that at a club as big as Newcastle, something so childish and absurd could occur. Regardless of whether you like your manager or not, refusing to get off a coach when he asks is not a good look for a professional footballer, at any level. Lascelles went on to say that the atmosphere at the club has changed for the better when Rafa Benitez took over from McClaren in 2016:
That's how it was but the minute this manager came in it changed. Because of the respect he has, players wouldn't dream of going against what he says. I wouldn't let them do it either. This is totally different now. No cliques. All together. I don't think for one minute we will go down this time.
When questioned whether dressing rooms are more professional the higher up the leagues you go. His response was surprising:
I would say the opposite. The higher you get you will find more egos and dressing rooms won't be as tight. It's just my opinion. Lower down the league — maybe because there are more English players — it will be tighter. I am not talking about this club. We are tight and we make sure we are. But if you look at your Man Citys and everybody else, I can't imagine they are all good friends off the pitch.
The 24-year-old said that because the players at Newcastle are not world class, that they have to make sure there more of a unit in order to survive in the league:
I would imagine they come in training and then, after, off you go. They are world-class players and because we are not we need to make sure we are doing the right things and working extra hard and going for team meals and sticking together. There is a saying that there are no friends in football. I don't believe that. I have good friends here. But obviously you like certain players more than others. That's just life and people.
Lascelles also spoke about wages in the Premier League, of how players in the league can get exorbitant wages whether they play well or not and how the reality of the lower leagues is that "it's about getting a win bonus for your mortgage". It was a refreshingly honest interview with Lascelles and it's very rare a player gives such insight into the inner workings of a club and the relationships between players.
H/T: The Daily Mail