Not easy for the players to please Toon fans: McClaren

LONDON • Steve McClaren has acknowledged that Newcastle United are "not an easy club" to play for but maintains life at St James' Park is nowhere near as dysfunctional as it sometimes appears.

"It's not so bonkers when you work inside this place," said McClaren who believes first-teamers require courage to perform on Tyneside. "It looks it, though, doesn't it, from the outside?"

The Newcastle manager's mood may have been jocular but producing a team capable of performing in front of fiercely partisan 52,000 crowds - known as the Toon Army - is proving hard work.

Although buoyed by last Sunday's 2-0 home win against Liverpool, McClaren's side are still in the bottom three in the English Premier League and face a tough game at Tottenham today.

"It's not an easy football club, as you and we all know, but that's the situation we're in," said the former England coach, who has had to conform to the often rigid policies imposed by club owner Mike Ashley.

CROWD EXPECTATIONS

I think it can be a culture shock to them - but I fully expect us to be stronger in the second half of the season. 

STEVE MCCLAREN, Newcastle manager on pressures facing players in St James' Park

"I think the players know that and I think the new ones that came in during the summer are adapting to that," said McClaren. "I think it can be a culture shock to them but I fully expect us to be stronger in the second half of the season."

After beating Liverpool, several Newcastle players looked so exhausted they were almost crawling off the pitch.

"I've got to say it's what everybody should be doing every week," said McClaren, who was delighted to see certain individuals finally give everything for the cause.

The manager has no new injury worries and will today have the same squad who beat Liverpool as Newcastle aim for back-to-back wins for the first time since November last year.

However, they have taken just five points from a possible 42 in their last 14 away games and face a Tottenham side who are yet to lose at home this season.

Spurs, who are enjoying an excellent campaign in the Premier League where they lie fifth, advanced to the knockout rounds of the Europe League by outclassing Monaco 4-1 at White Hart Lane.

They will look to solidify their strong league position over the next three games against sides in the bottom half, with Southampton and Norwich fixtures to come after today's match.

Eric Dier is expected to shake off a knock, after he was taken off in the first half against Monaco but only as a precaution.

Striker Harry Kane is set to return to action after sitting out the match on Thursday.

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

TOTTENHAM V NEWCASTLE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 13, 2015, with the headline 'Not easy for the players to please Toon fans: McClaren'. Print Edition | Subscribe