Newcastle United’s Premier League campaign has suffered as a consequence of “mismanagement from the very top”, according to former manager Kevin Keegan.
The 65-year-old, who led Newcastle to a second-place finish in 1995-96, blasted the club’s owner, Mike Ashley, for allowing the club to be relegated to the Championship for the second time in his reign.
In the nine years Ashley has been at the helm of the club, Newcastle have finished in the top 10 of the Premier League only twice, and the Magpies were also relegated when they finished 18th in 2008-09 – the season in which Keegan resigned to end his second spell as manager.
Speaking before the club’s fate was sealed by Sunderland’s victory over Everton on Wednesday, which put safety beyond Newcastle’s reach, Keegan told BBC Sport: “You have to say Mike Ashley hasn’t handled the decision-making very well or he’s given the responsibility to people and they haven’t handled it very well.
“They are going to have to go down and regroup. That’s not going to be easy.
“You make mistakes in football and you get punished, especially the Premier League now.”
Newcastle spent heavily on the likes of Georginio Wijnaldum, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Florian Thauvin, among others, and Keegan criticised the club’s policy of investing heavily in potential rather than proven players.
“It is mismanagement from the very top,” he said. “They bought players for the future but sometimes maybe you have to buy players for the present.
“It’s all right having a few good young players from France but can they play in the Premier League now?
“If they can’t – don’t buy them or certainly don’t play them. A few of them have found it very tough and the confidence goes and then even good players start to look pretty poor.”
The St James’ Park favourite did offer an optimistic view on Newcastle’s chances of retaining the services of manager Rafael Benitez, who was appointed following the sacking of Steve McClaren in March.
He said: “Benitez might fancy it. It is a big club. Once you go there and manage it, it does impress you as a club. The stadium is impressive, the fans and their passion is something that you can’t help but like and want to be part of.
“He hasn’t managed in the Championship – would that be a worry? I don’t think so for a man of his experience. It might be a really good experience for him.”
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