I may have even labelled him as "Alan Pardew 2.0" in an email to the rest of the IWIWAG team. That's probably harsh, considering McClaren's varied and fairly extensive resume.
I'm bothered that Newcastle seems to have once again settled for an out-of-work journeyman whose career seemingly needs United more than the club needs him.
I'm annoyed that Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley have made what feels like a safe, conservative hire at a time when the clubs could stand to chart a bold, new direction.
But I'm not totally down on this hire. Maybe it's the eternal optimist that lives under my sometimes-cynical exterior. Maybe I've been swayed by McClaren's early sound bites. Maybe I'm just happy to see Newcastle planning to sign some legitimate Premier League players.
Either way, there are a few reasons why I think the McClaren-Newcastle marriage might turn out to be decent (and decent rates as pretty good these days, right?). Here they are:
He seems to hold some sway at St. James'
The McClaren-to-Newcastle rumor had been out there since the moment Alan Pardew made his Selhurst Park escape. No one was surprised when Newcastle made it official.
The stunner was McClaren being appointed to an overhauled board. McClaren might not have the absolute power of a traditional English manager when it comes to personnel, but his influence should — key word there — be considerably greater than whatever clout Alan Pardew held (which wasn't much).
Let me be clear: Pardew should have been fired before he left on his own volition. He was no longer an effective manager in Newcastle's setup, with Newcastle's players. But it became increasingly hard to evaluate his ability because the club's hierarchy effectively neutered him. He had little say in the players at his disposal, and those players didn't appear to fit his playing style. Which brings us to reason No. 2 why McClaren might succeed ...
He might be able to work with Graham Carr
The Chronicle's Mark Douglas has reported on multiple occasions that the idea that McClaren and Carr, Newcastle's chief scout and transfer overlord, are best buddies has been overplayed. When Mark Douglas (or The Times' George Caulkin, for that matter) writes something, I pay attention.
That said, it sounds like McClaren and Carr at the very least get along, which should be an upgrade on the clearly dysfunctional relationship that festered during Pardew's reign. All too often, Carr delivered players who Pardew, in turn, neglected.
We could debate who takes what share of the blame for those failures, but that's not the point. Carr is, as Phil likes to say, the English soccer equivalent of an American sports general manager. He and the head coach need to be working off the same master plan. And McClaren sounds decidedly more comfortable with the partnership.
The club has (allegedly) seen the light on transfers
Yet another reason the McClaren-Carr pairing figures to work better: Mike Ashley has reportedly relented on the club's strict transfer policy. Finally, Newcastle might shell out some cash for players with Premier League experience.
Ashley's thinking on buying thrifty imports had some merits, but the club's rigid approach too often prevented it from landing players who could help immediately. And as the pressure cranked up during the second half of last season, too many of Newcastle's continental purchases looked bewildered.
Let's be clear: buying all British players isn't a magic bullet. But mixing in some players who know the league and its demands is always a positive.
He has faced similar pressure
Newcastle is an intensely unique club. What other team would draw 50,000 fans a week despite not having had a whiff of the Premier League title race since 1996?
While we all take issue with the distorted notion of the delusional Geordie, there's no denying the pressure that comes with such a zealous fan base. Pardew, for all his self-confidence and smooth talking, struggled to handle that stress — hence, the never-ending excuses, science being against him, etc.
McClaren may very well crumble under the burden as well. But he has a much larger bank of experiences from which to draw — the failure with England, testing himself in new countries — and he'll come into the job with a more nuanced idea of Newcastle's context as a club from his time at Middlesbrough and from living in the region. Those two factors could come in handy when dealing with the black-and-white craziness that's no doubt ahead.