Newcastle boss John Carver has been sacked by the club ahead of the expected appointment of Steve McClaren as manager at St James’ Park.
The coach, also known as ‘Bubbles’, ‘The Knife’ and ‘the best in the Premier League’, exited with a lowly 15% win ratio, a -18 goal-difference and 13 defeats from his 20 games in charge.
However, he also departed the club of his heart having left behind enough quotes of a rare David Brent/Alan Partridge-like genius to have even the most chastened Magpies fans looking back on 2014/15 with a weary chuckle.
After all, things had all started off so positively, as Carver alluded to after victory over Aston Villa had yielded his second victory in eight games:
“He [Mike Ashley] was pleased. He came down with Lee [Charnley]. We had a discussion, which was good. He’s delighted with the way things are going…
“He understood what it meant. There was so much pressure – he felt the pressure himself.
“We all did. That’s the type of people we are. We’re winners – we want to win.”
Carver was quick to credit himself for the ‘match-winning’ brainwave, to play 4-4-2:
“I was brave going with two wingers and two strikers – there are not many head coaches or managers in the Premier League go that way.”
Words thicker with irony now than they were even then, but back in early March the Villa victory even had ‘The Knife’ eyeing a top-ten finish, albeit acknowledging others may not interpret the situation so optimistically:
“Since I’ve had this position I’ve not thought about going down – I think about going up.
“There’s no way I’ll allow us to go flat, it’s about getting as many points on the board as we can.
“We’ve lost one in five – that’s my positive slant, but others will say we’ve only won two in nine.”
True to his word the deposed interim manager instead oversaw a g-force-pulling plummet towards the top-flight seabed.
In fairness, he had an injury crisis beyond the scope of his wildest imaginings to deal with not long after the Villa triumph, with just 13 senior players fit:
“I’ve never been in a position like this and I don’t think anybody I’ve ever worked with has ever had a situation like this.
“I remember a couple of seasons ago we went down to Norwich and we had to play Danny Simpson and James Perch as centre-backs and they had the two big guys up front who gave us a problem. That was harsh, but not as harsh as this. Definitely not.”
In such situations you need leaders, the type of people who will manage a dressing room, and, for Carver, they were nowhere to be found:
“In the ‘80s and the ‘90s, your captain ran your dressing room for you. I know it’s changed now – ask anybody in any football club, but that’s how it was and that’s how it should be.
“I shouldn’t have to go in there and manage that dressing room – that’s what your captains are there for. But there are not many of them out there now.”
Then there was widespread fan unrest to deal with, not that the interim manager was making any excuses:
“It [the unrest] is affecting people.
“It affected me and the players [against Tottenham]. I didn’t want to use it as an excuse and I don’t have a problem with protests.”
Instead he preferred a more world-class approach:
“We have been preparing for it [the Swansea game] like a World Cup final.”
After losing the World Cup final 3-2 to Swansea, ‘The Knife’ was once more in contradictory mood:
“Sometimes it is quite difficult to stand in that technical area and be abused the way I was abused without any protection from the sidelines.”
Speaking earlier on the same day, Carver had said: “I’ll take it [the abuse] on the chin. I’ll explain to people why I do things, I don’t have a problem with that.”
Having blamed Mike Williamson for getting himself sent off in the 3-0 defeat to Leicester, the departing coach had to resort to increasingly bizarre excuses as he proved unable to stymie the spurt of losses.
At Loftus Road the elements conspired with QPR to down Newcastle, meaning their survival would be decided in the last game of the campaign:
“We didn’t give up on it, we had a go and I can’t fault the lads for their effort again in a hot, warm climate.
“They were hot conditions and we kept going and going and going, but it wasn’t good enough.”
Victory over West Ham on the season’s final day saved Newcastle, but not Carver, who will ride off into the sunset having presided over the worst run of results (and best run of press conferences) at the club for some 38 years.
So long Bubbles, thanks for the memories.