Steve McClaren says he has settled upon his strongest Newcastle United side – 90 days into the Premier League season.
The Magpies take on Leicester City at St James’s Park on Saturday looking to build on their first away success of the campaign, 1-0 at Bournemouth 12 days ago.
Head coach McClaren feels the first three months of the campaign were always going to be tough, given that the team had only narrowly avoided relegation last season.
And he is hopeful that the progress he has seen “every day” on the training ground will soon translate into more results on the pitch.
McClaren said: “We feel like we’re turning a big ship, really, in terms of we’re trying to turn things around – and it’s slow.
“It’s slow, but you can see it. I can see it; I see it every day.
“They’re a good bunch of players, they’ve got good talent, and they work hard. We’re turning it around. I’m seeing good things. It’s a big job.
“It’s going to take a while to turn it around – some people say a ‘transition’ and all this and all that – but I think the first 90 days are key.
“We’ve been trying a lot of things in those first 90 days, and I think, in the last four or five weeks, we’ve settled.”
McClaren feels there’s now a “pecking order” at the club, given that he has a more settled starting XI. “The (international) windows have been good for us,” he said. “We’ve looked, reviewed, settled.
“After the last one we looked and said ‘right, Chelsea and Man City ... we looked at the team for those two games and we’ve seen enough’.
“We’ve stuck with that since and we’ve settled down. Before people didn’t know the pecking order, but now they roughly know, and we all roughly know, what the team’s going to be bar one or two.”
Meanwhile, Cheick Tiote says he’s looking up the Premier League table – and not towards the exit door.
The 29-year-old, reportedly a target for Major League Soccer club New England Revolution, insists his only “focus” ahead of Saturday’s home game against Leicester City is helping 17th-placed Newcastle climb further up the table.
Asked about his future, he said: “We have been at the bottom for a long time.
“We need to do everything to look forward.
“We need to work every day in training and try to win some games.”