Jermaine Jenas Exclusive: It's time for Newcastle to learn their lessons

Jermaine Jenas
Yahoo Sport UK
Aston Villa drew with Newcastle United, meaning both will be in the Championship next season if Sunderland beat Everton on Wednesday.

Aston Villa 0 Newcastle United 0: Benitez's side dealt major blow in survival chase

Aston Villa drew with Newcastle United, meaning both will be in the Championship next season if Sunderland beat Everton on Wednesday.

When a club gets relegated - particularly one as big as Newcastle - it falls on the manager's head, and the former Magpies boss Steve McClaren will feel a huge amount of responsibility for the team's demise this season. But apart from the shirts, things are rarely so black-and-white on Tyneside.

The reason for the club going down is that they spent a lot of money without buying the right players. But in terms of McClaren's role, the exact criteria that were laid before him when he took the job last summer remain a bit of a mystery, particularly with regards to his influence on transfers.

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Newcastle's biggest problem this season - unusually for the club - has been an inability to score. In the past they've always had a No.9 who gets them goals, but their current top scorer is midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum. No-one in the squad has reached double figures.

The opportunities they missed to sign someone like Charlie Austin have come back to haunt them. I don't know if Charlie didn't want to move to the north-east, or whether the club didn't show enough commitment to sign him, but that's exactly the sort of player they were crying out for all season.

Newcastle have been relegated under Mike Ashley's stewardship for the second time.
Newcastle have been relegated under Mike Ashley's stewardship for the second time.

The club have gone down because they don't have a goalscorer in the ranks, which is ridiculous considering there were various options out there, and unacceptable for a club the size of Newcastle.

If that's down to McClaren, then it's his fault - because the recruitment wasn't good enough. But my suspicion is that he had little to do with Newcastle's summer signings. If the board pursued transfer targets without consulting the manager - based on advice from their "experts" - then the recruitment failures are the chairman's fault. Therefore, so is relegation.

Mike Ashley's problem has always been that, above all, he wants to run Newcastle as a business and make a profit. That's why he has attacked the French market with such gusto, because he knows he can get things for dirt cheap there.

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In his defence, there is some real quality in Ligue 1 if you get players at the right age and time, as Leicester have proved with the likes of N'Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez. But Ashley has massively overdone that avenue.

By the time it came to the January window, Newcastle were scrambling for players. Andros Townsend and Jonjo Shelvey were solid midfield signings, but the only striker they signed was Seydou Doumbia, who has had zero impact.

To be fair to Aleksandar Mitrovic, he has had a good first year at Newcastle. He's not an out-and-out goalscorer yet, but he's a handful and you can tell that he will score goals eventually.

Was Aleksandar Mitrovic given enough support to thrive?Action Images via Reuters / Carl RecineLivepic
Was Aleksandar Mitrovic given enough support to thrive?Action Images via Reuters / Carl RecineLivepic

He reminds me of when we brought Roman Pavlyuchenko to Spurs. You can't put too much weight on a player's shoulders when they've never played in the Premier League before, and Roman started slowly. But once the likes of Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe came in to support him, he came to life because the pressure wasn't on him to carry the club by scoring all the goals.

Newcastle's stature is not in question - big stadium, lovely training ground, great support - but the club as a whole needs a reality check. They may be a big club, but in the context of the current Premier League landscape, I don't know what made them think they could take a gamble on Mitrovic without having something solid there already.

Given that they've been flirting with relegation more often than not in recent years - and particularly last season - I don't know what Ashley thought gave them the right to spend £15m on a unproven youngster.

Signing players with the biggest potential sell-on value is the model Ashley has continued to follow, but last season was surely the warning sign that it needed to be changed.

The reason he didn't change it was because it was making him and the club money, but not anymore. Relegation will probably cost the businessman £200m.

Last weekend's 0-0 draw against Aston Villa epitomised why Newcastle are going down. Granted, Villa put in a spirited display, but to not find the net against the worst team in the league summed up the Magpies' problems.

Although relegation is unquestionably a disaster for Newcastle, they do have a better chance than most teams of coming straight back up - as they proved when they bounced back into the Premier League in 2010.

On that occasion they managed to keep hold of a core of players that were prepared to scrap it out while drafting in good Championship players, and I think they will look to do that again. There is a mixture of solid pros and promising youngsters like Rolando Aarons already at St James's Park, while the size of the club will always help them attract players at that level. They're not in as precarious a position as Aston Villa, whose squad makes me fear for them next season.

 When I was relegated with QPR, we got rid of the players we didn't want, got together and fought our way back up. Deciding who stays and goes is not so much about ability as attitude. You don't want to hold on to players who think they are too good for the second tier.

There are some players who I think will leave Tyneside regardless, such as Moussa Sissoko, Cheick Tiote and Papiss Cisse, while Chancel Mbemba has had a very good season and I think he will be sought after.

But the biggest question is whether they can keep hold of Rafa Benitez.

Unfortunately, I don't see him staying with them in the Championship. I don't know if the Spaniard has an extensive knowledge of the second tier- maybe he doesn't - but he's still a top manager and the club should do whatever they can to keep him. Their best chance of doing that is to persuade him to look upon next season as "one year out" from what he's used to.

Benitez could be a breath of fresh air for the club in the transfer window, because I don't think he will stand for not having control over recruitment. He will bring stability, and he also is the kind of manager who would bring a trophy to the table further down the line.

But whoever is tasked with leading Newcastle's revival, it is surely time for Ashley to learn from his mistakes. The transfer policy he has employed since arriving at St James's Park simply hasn't worked, and things need to change quickly if this great club is to bounce back.

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