JOHN Carver talked of having a peculiarly public job interview at Newcastle United.
Carver didn’t expect to be asked for a formal, suited interview at St James’s Park when asked about the vacant head coach post late last week.
Instead, he was to again take a seat in the dugout in his club tracksuit on Saturday.
And for 40 or so minutes at Stamford Bridge, the players were letting their feet do the talking for the club’s caretaker manager.
They were making quite an impression.
Remy Cabella, finally, had found his stride in a black and white shirt, and the power of Moussa Sissoko and the pace of Ayoze Perez were also troubling the Premier League leaders.
Jose Mourinho, not surprisingly, didn’t look happy.
Carver was happier, but his team didn’t take its chances – Sissoko came closest with a fierce shot that struck the outside of Petr Cech’s post – and Newcastle’s afternoon started to unravel at the end of the first half when captain Fabricio Coloccini put the ball out for a corner.
Rather than opt for the back row, he rolled it towards the front row, and Chelsea quickly got the ball rolling.
So quickly, in fact, that United’s team weren’t ready for it, and by the time they switched on, Branislav Ivanovic had pulled the ball back for Oscar, who put it into the net before fit-again Tim Krul and Daryl Janmaat could intervene.
Diego Costa made sure of the points just before the hour-mark, and that was that.
Newcastle’s 2,200 fans, at least, had seen their team show some enterprise and imagination in the opposition half.
They had shown precious little of either quality a week earlier in the FA Cup defeat to Leicester City at the King Power Stadium, and Carver can only hope that forgettable third-round tie doesn’t prove to be the defining match of his tenure, however, long it lasts.
Coloccini, Sissoko, Janmaat and Jack Colback had all controversially missed the cup tie through injury. Perez, left exhausted by the club’s festive programme, had been rested.
It wasn’t a surprise to see them back in the starting XI a week later at Stamford Bridge for a game no-one expected them to win.
Club owner Mike Ashley – who would congratulate departed manager Alan Pardew by text after Crystal Palace’s win over Tottenham Hotspur later in the day – was among the spectators.
Remi Garde – who has held discussions with Newcastle managing director Lee Charnley about becoming the club’s new head coach – was not at Stamford Bridge, though he is understood to have been in the capital.
Presumably, Garde will have still watched the game.
The Frenchman, presumably, will have been heartened by much of what he saw against Chelsea.
Maybe he feels he can iron out the defensive creases which let the side down and sharpen up the team in the final third of the pitch.
And maybe the 48-year-old feels he can build something special at a club which last won a major trophy in 1969, but whether Pardew’s successor gets to work with Sissoko for very long is debatable.
When the midfielder plays well, Newcastle play well.
But just days after seemingly reaffirming his commitment to United on Twitter, Sissoko suggested that his days at the club were numbered in a TV interview, which was aired in France yesterday.
The 25-year-old, insultingly, said he wanted to join a “big club”, and talked of his love for Arsenal.
Sissoko, whatever his longer-term ambitions, should have chosen his words more carefully.
But United don’t win trophies, and Sissoko, presumably, feels he must leave St James’s Park to play in the Champions League and challenge for silverware.
Newcastle were once regarded as a big club on the European stage.
Is Garde – who had to work under tight financial constraints at former club Olympique Lyonnais – the man to take them back there?