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The blame game: Who should take the flak for Newcastle's horror slump?
Published : 25 May 2009 19:01:27
When Alan Shearer admitted there are 'a lot of people at fault' for Newcastle United's demise, he wasn't making an understatement. There is a sizeable cast list of villains and fallen heroes who could lay claim to playing their part in the club's current plight. Speaking after the Magpies' lacklustre display against Aston Villa, Shearer said: 'I include myself, Joe Kinnear, Kevin Keegan, Chris Hughton and Mike Ashley. I came in expecting to turn things round. I take my share of the blame. It's a club I love.' Here is Sportsmail's guide to the figures who helped turn Newcastle into a club in free fall. THE BOARD Mike Ashley Where do you start? Short-term, quick-fix solutions, the appointment of Wise and Tony Jimenez, buying average players at inflated prices and insisting on wearing a football shirt in the boardroom. Ashley has been a disaster as the owner of Newcastle United.His only saving grace has been the money - his own money - that he has ploughed in to the club. There will be an end-of-season sale at Newcastle United because their wage bill isn't sustainable in the Championship, but they're not in the financial dire straits Leeds United were five years ago.Blame rating: 5/5 Dennis Wise 'What we'll do 'ere is buy a loada quality kids for next to nothin', develop 'em and sell 'em for loadsa money.' Football's a simple game, really, isn't it?Welcome to the world of Dennis Wise, who joined Newcastle United in January 2008 as the club's Executive Director (Football). He was allegedly responsible for player recruitment, although the signings of Jonas Gutierrez, Xisco and Fabricio Coloccini would indicate otherwise. Dennis Wise was partly responsible for the signings of flops Jonas Gutierrez, Xisco and Fabricio Coloccini Wise's appointment was symptomatic of a floundering regime and a desperate attempt by Mike Ashley to surround himself with Cockney cronies. The former Chelsea man's reputation as one of the most irksome characters in football did not help his cause, while his fleeting visits to St James' Park and the obvious tensions with Keegan were never going to persuade the Toon Army to take him to their hearts.But Wise must take his share of the blame for taking the money, encouraging the purchase of substandard players and then scarpering when things got messy.Blame rating: 4/5 Tony Jimenez Who? He may have a name like a Las Vegas lounge singer but this former Chelsea steward had enough contacts to earn himself a place on the Newcastle board as Vice President (Player Recruitment), according to Mike Ashley. A Spanish speaker, Jimenez was tasked with helping Wise to identify and buy players and most therefore take some of the blame for the tripe that turned up at St James' Park. But why was he appointed in the first place? As chairman Chris Mort explained in October 2008: 'Mike Ashley who has been friends with him and Paul Kemsley [former Spurs director] for a long time. They all go to England games at Wembley together.' Oh, that's all right then.Blame rating: 4/5 THE MANAGERS Alan Shearer Big Al graciously left the safety of the Match of the Day sofa when Newcastle were in dire need of a helping hand. His loyalty and passion for the club are without question but the facts speak for themselves: one win in eight was simply not good enough.Arguably he could have offered his services earlier, but would that have been any use?Shearer failed to put any spark into a group of overpaid, under-achieving players and his Newcastle often looked out of shape and as hapless as ever. But the rot had well and truly set in by the time the latest Toon messiah returned and Shearer's share of the blame must reflect that. At least he gave the Geordies some hope.Blame rating: 2/5 Kevin Keegan Newcastle fans are renowned for their optimism but Keegan's appointment in January 2008 really did feel like a new era on Tyneside. Or, rather, a return to the days when Newcastle challenged for the title and their centre forwards were capable of scoring goals. Keegan guided them to 12th in 2007-08 and the new season dawned with a genuine sense of excitement, but the foundations were far from solid. You can just imagine Keegan's face when Wise and Jimenez brought their latest unknown signings to the training ground and introduced them via an interpreter. The sale of James Milner to Aston Villa was another flash point for which Keegan cannot be blamed, but then he committed the ultimate sin: he walked away. Nobody likes a quitter.Blame rating: 3/5 Joe Kinnear He stepped in when nobody would touch Newcastle with a barge pole and rode out the tide of mockery as all and sundry labelled him as a laughing stock. When Kinnear wasn't cursing or criticising other people he achieved some good results on the pitch, guiding Newcastle to a decent run before Christmas that seemed to steady the ship. But then the wheels came off, his players became disenchanted (calling Charles N'Zogbia 'Insomnia' wasn't a great move) and his health failed. It all went downhill from there, really.Blame rating: 2/5 THE PLAYERS Michael Owen The striker (we can still just about call him that) earns £115,000-a-week and has scored just eight league goals this season. The numbers simply don't add up. Yes, Owen has suffered with injuries and, yes, he is a player who thrives off the sort of service that has been sadly lacking at Newcastle this season, but he's been guilty of missing chances on more than one occasion. Miserably short of confidence, Owen could not repay the faith Shearer showed in him when he joined the club and his selection as a substitute for the Aston Villa game tells its own story. The former Liverpool man can now walk away care-free from St James' Park (or return to Cheshire in his helicopter) because his contract has come to an end. This lack of commitment has, unfortunately, been apparent all season.Blame rating: 3/5 Joey Barton Keegan stood by Barton after he was sentenced to six months in prison for assault and affray in May 2008. A reference by the then-Newcastle manager was read out in court and Keegan risked public criticism for allowing Barton to return to the squad after he served his time (and a 12-game ban, six of which were suspended, for a training ground bust up with Manchester City team-mate Ousmane Dabo).A knee ligament injury meant Barton played a minor role under Joe Kinnear, but he let Alan Shearer down badly with his lunging tackle on Liverpool's Xabi Alonso, for which he was given a straight red card. While contributing little on the pitch, Barton's behaviour has done nothing to help Newcastle's reputation and he has not helped their cause in the slightest.Blame rating: 3/5 Fabricio Coloccini Kinnear called him 'Mr Reliable' but Coloccini is more akin to 'Mr Ridiculous' with that daft hairstyle and tendency to go AWOL. For £10million Newcastle needed a much better defender than the AC Milan reject they got, but he made 38 appearances for the club before being dropped by Shearer. 'I was sold a club that would challenge in the top half with a good chance of doing well in the cups,' he said earlier this month. Delusional as well, obviously.Blame rating: 2/5 Jonas Gutierrez Newcastle ended up paying Real Mallorca £5.2m for the Argentine and he threatened to be a good player, but has failed to score a single goal for the club. The Argentina international has been symptomatic of Newcastle's season - floating about without much passion or drive. But who identified him in the first place?Blame rating: 2/5 Obafemi Martins Exasperating to the end, Martins may have put Newcastle ahead in their crucial 3-1 against Middlesbrough but he has been absent all-too-often this season. His late withdrawal before Newcastle's match against Stoke City in April did him no favours with Shearer, but Martins has not been the worst offender on Tyneside.Blame rating: 2/5 Shay Given The goalkeeper jumped ship at Christmas, exasperated with the regime at St James' Park and in need of a new challenge after nearly 12 years at the club. But Given cannot be blamed for Newcastle's demise. The Irishman was 'disgusted' with his treatment by the board after he put in a transfer request and Steve Harper was a ready deputy.Blame rating: 0/5 Who do you think is most culpable? The board, the managers or the players? Let us know by leaving your comments below.