Revealed: The Graham Carr transfer connection that got Steve McClaren the Newcastle job
Just minutes after the announcement of Steve McClaren’s appointment as head coach, Newcastle released a second statement.
It read: “Head coach Steve McClaren, chief scout Graham Carr and club ambassador Bob Moncur have today been appointed to the board, joining managing director Lee Charnley.
“Mike Ashley has relinquished his position on the board along with Finance Director John Irving who is leaving the club.”
For now, let’s put to one side the discussion about whether having your head coach, chief scout and club ambassador as three-quarters of your board, instead of, say, finance, marketing and strategy experts, actually makes the club stronger.
Instead, it’s worth looking at the man who is now arguably as powerful as anyone at the club – Carr himself.
It’s been a remarkable rise for the Corbridge-born veteran. Brought in as a scout under Chris Hughton, who he’d worked with at Tottenham Hotspur, Carr now has a huge say in how the football side of the business is ran.
It’s easy to see why he’s gained the trust of Mike Ashley – after all, he’s helped the United owner do what he enjoys best: make money.
Carr was instrumental in the signing of Yohan Cabaye for £3.5m, later sold for £20m. Then there was the double-your-money deal with Matthieu Debuchy, not to mention the profit Newcastle will surely make when they cash in on Moussa Sissoko.
Carr has scoured Europe for enough bargains to keep United in the Premier League the last five years. If anyone is integral to Ashley’s policy of maximum profit and exposure for minimal outlay, it’s him.
When Charnley was tasked with finding a new head coach, it’s no surprise he turned to Carr for help. There is a lack of ‘football’ experience in the corridors of power at St James’s Park and Carr’s input, based on more than 50 years in the game as a player, coach, manager and scout, was vital.
Make no mistake about it, McClaren was his choice. Ashley, true to his word, left the decision up to the board. Charnley may have tied up the deal, but it was on Carr’s reccomendation.
It’s a recommendation based on a relationship that has developed over recent years.
Carr was an avid admirer of McClaren’s FC Twente team, regularly taking in their games in Holland as they finished second, then finally won the Eredivisie.
United’s chief scout has since tried to sign a number of players from that title-winning squad. He was successful with Cheick Tiote, a player who the Magpies bought for £3.5m after McClaren – by then manager at Wolfsburg – recommended could adapt to Premier League rigours.
Luuk de Jong was another from that squad who ended up at St James’s Park, Carr having kept a close eye on his development after McClaren brought the youngster to Twente and handed him his debut.
There were other near misses. Bryan Ruiz, top scorer for Twente when they won the league, was one – Newcastle put in a deadline-day bid in 2011 only for the Costa Rican to join Fulham instead.
The Carr-McClaren connection can be seen closer to home than Holland, too.
Rewind to last summer and, out of the blue, Newcastle swooped for Nottingham Forest duo Karl Darlow and Jamaal Lascelles. When McClaren begins pre-season training in a fortnight, he will meet up again with two young men who were highly-rated youth players at the City Ground during his brief spell as manager. Darlow had joined Forest a few years earlier on the recommendation of esteemed goalkeeping coach Eric Steele – tipped to join McClaren at St James’s.
But if any player has been pivotal to Carr’s rise through the St James’s Park ranks it’s another of McClaren’s old boys who didn’t actually sign for the club – Brazilian-born centre-half Douglas.
The 6ft 4in star was the rock in Twente’s defence as they claimed the title under McClaren. Carr and Derek Llambias worked for months on a deal to get the stopper signed on a free transfer, only for Joe Kinnear to famously pull the plug at the last minute.
It was a move which saw Llambias quit and Carr considering his future. Ashley talked him in to staying and eventually got rid of Kinnear instead.
Since then, Carr’s power has grown. While he may be chief scout in name but he is essentially doing the job Kinnear failed spectacularly at, that of director of football.
It’s an all-encompassing role. Back in 2012, after signing an eight-year contract, Carr said: “Basically, I’m just recruiting players. I just go and watch matches.”
It’s so much more than that now, as his elevation to the boardroom testifies.