Saints could show Steve McClaren`s Newcastle the way
Steve McClaren returns to the Premier League on Sunday when Newcastle United take on Southampton, who represent the ideal blueprint for his attempt to transform a team who were only 90 minutes away from starting this season in the Championship.
Southampton, in contrast, finished in seventh place in May thanks to coach Ronald Koeman`s shrewd signings, players who came mainly from mainland Europe and possessed the quality and character required to handle the demands of the Premier League.
Now, with Southampton starting the new season at St James` Park, Koeman`s team offer an examination of McClaren`s progress since he took over at a club in danger of relegation until the final day of last season.
McClaren is aware he will face intense scrutiny on his return to the Premier League nine years after he left Middlesbrough to take charge of England.
"I`m coming back into a Premier League that`s pretty much as it was before," said McClaren.
But he will find the pressure is even more intense, particularly from supporters who have embraced social media as a means of criticising managers and players.
A sizeable proportion of Newcastle followers are still to be convinced about McClaren, whose failure with England was followed by success at FC Twente in Holland before he was subsequently sacked from jobs at Wolfsburg and Derby and resigned at Twente and Nottingham Forest in the wake of poor results.
McClaren is aware of at least one change in the Premier League since his Middlesbrough days where he had the consistent backing of owner Steve Gibson: managers and coaches no longer survive bad results -- unless you are Alan Pardew at Newcastle last season, of course."The pressure is on me from the outset, without a shadow of a doubt," he said. "I know it will take time, but in the real world of football and the Premier League, you are judged on every game."
McClaren has brought in four new players, although the latest signing, teenager Ivan Toney, is an investment in the future.
Anderlecht`s Chancel Mbemba and Aleksandar Mitrovic and PSV Eindhoven`s Georginio Wijnaldum, are expected make an instant impact in the same way as Koeman`s imports adapted to the Premier League last season.
Dusan Tadic, Graziano Pelle, Florin Gardos, Shane Long, Sadio Mane and Fraser Forster all remain at the club, while Ryan Bertrand`s loan from Chelsea has turned into a permanent deal.
They are joined by Malaga`s Juanmi, Feyenoord`s Jordy Clasie, FC Twente`s Cuco Martina and Sporting Lisbon`s Cedric Soares following the departure of Morgan Schneiderlin and Nathaniel Clyne, to Manchester United and Liverpool respectively.
Koeman also has defender Steve Caulker and goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg on loan and another "new" player in the forward Jay Rodriguez, who has been out for 16 months because of a knee injury and returned in in Thursday`s Europa League 2-0 win at Vitesse Arnhem.
Koeman believes his squad has sufficient depth to handle the twin demands of Europe and the Premier League.
"I have a full and strong squad with balance of the team to manage both competitions," said the coach, who may miss the trip to Tyneside because of an Achilles tendon injury.
"We didn`t let as many players leave as last season, which is very important. We lost quality players but the replacements were the same quality.
"We are in a good place. The new guys have showed already they have a lot of quality so I am really relaxed on that aspect."