Belfast Telegraph

McClaren gets down to business

Steve McClaren has wasted little time in getting down to business after being appointed as Newcastle's new head coach.

Press Association Sport understands the 54-year-old, whose arrival as Alan Pardew's permanent successor was confirmed on Wednesday evening, was at the club's Darsley Park training headquarters by 8.30am on Thursday morning to begin the process of planning for the new Barclays Premier League season.

McClaren is understood to have held talks with managing director Lee Charnley and chief scout Graham Carr over the pre-season programme, but perhaps more importantly, the Magpies' summer recruitment drive.

QPR striker Charlie Austin is their number one target as they attempt to bolster a squad which struggled so badly last season, and although there will be stiff competition for the man who scored 18 league goals during the 2014-15 campaign, they are hopeful of striking a deal.

There is an acceptance on Tyneside that the playing staff needs to be beefed up, not just in terms of quality, but also character after a dreadful post-Christmas slump.

Newcastle will not abandon the European market - they are understood to have an interest in PSV Eindhoven midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum - but they are prepared to shop closer to home too, where targets often carry a premium they have not been prepared to accept in recent transfer windows.

However, it remains to be seen not only if McClaren and Carr can attract the players they want, but also if Charnley can do business at the right price in what could be a key summer.

Owner Mike Ashley, who stepped down from the board on Wednesday, indicated his intention to invest more substantially in the squad in a surprise television interview on the final day of the season, and the rhetoric coming out of St James' Park as McClaren arrived perhaps reflected a new level of ambition.

In recent seasons, the minimum target has been a top-10 finish with the domestic cup competitions simply not a priority; the new head coach has been challenged to finish eighth or better and to win a trophy, and that signals a significant change in emphasis.

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