Newcastle lacking the character and experience they need

By Jermaine JenasMOTD pundit and former Newcastle midfielder
Match of the Day

I know it is not nice to be a Newcastle player when things are going the way they are at the moment at St James' Park.

I genuinely feared for them before their last two home defeats by Watford and Sheffield Wednesday, because I thought those would be the games where the fans turn against the team if they lose, which is exactly what has happened.

The Magpies' previous results this season were acceptable for different reasons but no positives can be taken from being beaten at home by a newly promoted team, or being knocked out of the League Cup by a Championship club's reserve side.

Now the pressure is really on, Newcastle boss Steve McClaren is going to need some seriously strong characters in his squad to deal with it.

McClaren's problem is that I look at his summer signings and think character is exactly what they are lacking, along with Premier League experience and knowing how to deal with this situation.

More on Newcastle's woes from BBC Sport
Sacking McClaren would be ridiculous - HoweyNewcastle fans' group wants Ashley out
McClaren admits Magpies are near crisisReport: Magpies lose to Sheffield Wednesday

Getting the fans onside

Newcastle fans react angrily during last weekend's defeat by Watford
Newcastle have won only three of their 25 Premier League games in 2015

In more than three years playing for Newcastle between 2002 and 2005, I don't remember any of our performances at St James' Park being seriously booed.

Even when we lost 6-2 at home to Manchester United in 2003, the fans were fine because we had given everything.

Any time the opposition were just too good, the fans were fine because they can appreciate good football, but the thing they didn't stand for was a lack of work-rate.

In my time there, we knew that and we knew had to put the effort in. We did the same thing for every home game, where we would be stood in the tunnel outside the changing rooms and we would look at each other and go '15 minutes'.

What that meant was 15 minutes of absolute graft at the start of the game where, right through the team, we would be closing people down, tackling non-stop and chasing everything.

That was all about getting the crowd onside. Sometimes we would nick a goal too but, even if we didn't, from that point on the game was just so much easier because we had got the fans going and they were right behind us.

Understanding what playing for Newcastle is all about

Gary Speed, Jermaine Jenas and Alan Shearer
Jenas played alongside Gary Speed and Alan Shearer during his time with the Magpies

You needed to show the fans that you were ready to fight for the club and bring some pride to the North East. If you did that, they were with you.

For me, knowing about that and the reasons for doing it were part of understanding what playing for Newcastle was about.

When I joined Newcastle, I had people like Alan Shearer, Gary Speed, Craig Bellamy, Kieron Dyer and Shay Given to explain it to me.

It was made clear there were standards that we had to meet. We had players who were quite blunt and quite straight-talking, even when we were on a night out.

You could be chilling in a bar having a drink when one of them might go "you had a nightmare at the weekend, stop doing that - start doing this instead".

It was not pressure and it was not personal because we were a very tight-knit squad, but it made me raise my game because I thought 'I am not going to be be the guy who gets attacked next time'.

That's how I got the message about what the expectations were, but I don't know whether anyone is telling the new signings something similar about putting the same effort in now.

Newcastle's next two games are against Chelsea and Manchester City. Nobody is really expecting them to win those games but they have to show the fans something they have not done yet.

Fans need players they can relate to

Aleksandar Mitrovic
Mitrovic joined Newcastle for £13m from Anderlecht in July

One of the big things Newcastle have lacked over the last few years is an identity. By that I mean players on the pitch that the fans can relate to.

Their turnover of players is just ridiculous, and I don't know how they can hope to get any type of continuity in their team.

Their player recruitment strategy is all wrong too. They clearly needed to sign some established Premier League players over the summer, rather than taking a chance on some young talent from Belgium or France.

Newcastle's signings - summer 2015
Georginio Wijnaldum24PSV Eindhoven£14.5m
Aleksandar Mitrovic20Anderlecht£13m
Florian Thauvin22Marseille£12m
Chancel Mbemba20Anderlecht£8m
Ivan Toney19Northampton undisclosed

I know they cannot compete at the top end of the transfer market but this is Newcastle United we are talking about - a huge club that players want to play for. You cannot tell me they would not have been able to attract the players they needed.

When I joined Newcastle from Nottingham Forest in 2002, I initially did not want to go. I thought it was too far away and Leeds wanted to buy me, so I told my agent I wanted to move there because it was only down the road and I was friends with a couple of players there - Robbie Keane and Rio Ferdinand.

My agent said "go and speak to Sir Bobby Robson and see what you think then". After I came off the phone to him I was 50% of the way there, then I went to St James' Park and saw it full and that was it, my mind was made up. It is a very special place.

Jermaine Jenas
Jenas joined Newcastle for £5m from Nottingham Forest in February 2002

New players will be feeling the pressure

Most of Newcastle's summer signings are struggling but it is hard for new and young players to come into a team that is struggling already, and impossible for them to be expected to transform it - football just does not work like that.

When I signed for Newcastle I was 18 but there was experience everywhere I looked in the dressing room and it was so easy for me to play my football because I did not feel under any pressure to perform straight away.

Compare that to the players who have joined over the summer. Many of them must be feeling like it is down to them to turn the club around.

They will be feeling the pressure off the pitch too, because playing for Newcastle is different to most clubs.

Life in a goldfish bowl - and setting the record straight

The Tyne Bridge and the Newcastle skyline
Newcastle and rivals Sunderland prop up the Premier League table after six games

For years, comments I had supposedly made about leaving Newcastle because it was "like living in a goldfish bowl" were thrown at me, even though I never actually said that and I would never have seen it as a negative anyway.

I actually loved the kind of town feel that Newcastle has. It is one of those cities that, when the team is doing well, there is no better place in England because you get looked after.

It was just silly things where I would jump in a taxi and the driver would tell me I was not paying for it. You don't get that too often in London.

I was 18 when I went there and 22 when I left, so I was in my peak years to be enjoying my football and my life, and Newcastle was probably the best place to do it.

At the moment, though, what those players will be experiencing is the total opposite of that because when things are bad up there, they are really bad.

We were chasing a Champions League spot in 2003-04 and if we lost a couple of games and were down in fifth or sixth, you could feel the public turning against you.

There are two newspapers up there that have a big influence and if the public are critical outside the ground, the atmosphere turns very quickly at the stadium too.

McClaren will be keeping mood upbeat

Newcastle manager Steve McClaren
McClaren's side are second bottom of the Premier League and have scored only three goals in six matches

With such poor results so far, criticism from the fans and people calling for the manager to be sacked, you might think it is all doom and gloom at Newcastle at the moment.

With Steve McClaren in charge, that will not be the case.

I played under him for England and also at QPR when he was a coach there in 2013-14.

Some managers I played for would come in for training on Monday after a bad result on Saturday and still be angry and upset.

Steve is the opposite to that. He is 100% positive all of the time, and no matter what the last result was, he would come into training almost running, and saying 'let's get out there'.

The training ground is what he loves the most. You could tell by how much he would be smiling and laughing when he was out there. His attitude was that this was work time, and that we could work our way out of our situation by working hard for the next couple of hours.

He was never afraid to dish out a rollicking when it was needed but I know for a fact that he will still be addressing the Newcastle players with that same enthusiasm.

That is a strong characteristic to have as a manager, especially at a club like Newcastle in the situation they are in.

His players will need that positivity, especially the younger ones, but now is the time for them to show that they have got some character after all.

They need to stand up and be counted because that is the only way they are going to get out of this situation.