Forget the top eight, I’d settle for safety, insists Newcastle boss

Steve McClaren
Steve McClaren
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Newcastle United boss Steve McClaren says he’d gladly take Premier League survival now – just two months into the new campaign.

McClaren was tasked with guiding the Magpies to a top-eight finish when he was appointed in the summer.

But the winless Tynesiders, who take on Norwich City at home tomorrow (4pm kick-off), is propping up the Premier League with eight games gone despite a £50million-plus summer spend.

And the St James’s Park head coach is ready to drastically readjust the pre-season targets, with top-flight survival now the “absolute priority” ahead of next season’s new multi-billion pound TV deal.

Asked if a top-eight finish was now beyond Newcastle, McClaren said: “At the present moment, being in the top eight is miles away.

“I remember having conversations with Harry (Redknapp), and he used to have a massive party whenever he got to 40 points. Whether that was in November, March, April, whenever – he’d say ‘right, we’re having a party now’.

“It’s all about getting to that 40-point mark, then you can think about other things.

“Especially this year (with the new TV deal), that has to be the absolute priority. That’s the focus.

“If someone said to me now ‘you’ll have 40 points by mid-April’, I’d take it.

“That’s just the perspective of where we are. I think people would think I’d gone absolutely daft and crazy if I was sitting here now saying we’d turn that down.

“The most important thing at the present moment – and this is probably true for 10 or 11 of the clubs in the league – is to get to 40 points.

“Most of the clubs in the Premier League will be thinking the same – they all want to get there as quickly as they can. All this talk about tables and what other clubs are doing – it doesn’t matter. You’ve got to get those points and then everything else is irrelevant.”

Newcastle were hammered 6-1 by Manchester City in their last game a fortnight ago. McClaren’s side, however, had led at the Etihad Stadium, and a week earlier the Magpies had bossed Premier League champions Chelsea for 45 minutes.

“When I’ve seen the last two games, I’ve seen two 45 minutes of what I want to see from this team,” said McClaren. “Then I’ve also seen 45 minutes of what can happen if we don’t do that. It’s easy to say, but it’s damned hard to do – we just need to do that for 95 minutes. You get setbacks in games, and when we conceded three goals in four minutes, it was a case of ‘woah’. How do you deal with that and handle it?”