So on Wednesday night, Sunderland sealed their own safety and Newcastle’s relegation. Who is to blame for our sad demise this season?
 

Supporters?
Ok, why not at least have a look at supporters, after all, we have been blamed for putting too much pressure on the playing staff before. 

Yes, it is true that in the past, managers and players have come under pressure. Pardew got some stick, at the end, so did McClaren. It seems reasonable to suggest that both were given a fair crack of the whip. 

The average home crowd has been over 48,000, despite languishing in the relegation zone for much of the campaign. Since Rafa’s arrival, supporters have been well behind the team as they were early in the season. At the end of the day, we can only react to what is put in front of us. 

Away from the ground, supporters’ web sites have been quick to reflect what has been done well. We have also offered advice where appropriate. On this site on 3rd January, we predicted a bottom 3 of Villa, Norwich and Newcastle. We proposed remedies. 

It is hard to find any real reason to blame supporters.
 

McClaren?
We said before he was appointed that McClaren was not the man for the job. Yes, he has had a couple of successes in his career, including a League Cup with Boro and a title with Twente. 

Abject failures with England, Wolfsburg, his second spell at Twente, Forest and Derby should have been warning signs.  Conversely, we can see that the man who finished his England career, Slaven Bilic, has been a success down at West Ham. 

McClaren can not be blamed for applying for the job, after all, who wouldn’t want to manage in the Premier League? The fact remains that whoever appointed him clearly has not recognised that English managers of his generation, in what is effectively a global league, do not demonstrate the same tactical nous as many from overseas. 

It appears that the top English manager this season will be between youngster, Eddie Howe and Alan Pardew, with Allardyce just behind them. Between them, Pardew and Allardyce between them have 8 wins out of 36 games since the start of the year. The figure goes up to 10 in 45 if McClaren is included. 

We can’t blame McClaren, we have to look higher. 

The players?
Fair enough, we can attach some blame here. At the end of the day, it is the players who take to the pitch. 

Having said that, we have to question how they were deployed, motivated and selected. 

Transfer policy?
At the start of the season, we could see that the squad lacked balance. We had one recognised right back in Janmaat, yet a catalogue of number 10s, de Jong, Wijnaldum, and Perez, no “creative” midfielder. 

Aside from Cisse, whose career has been injury blighted in recent years, we had a couple of players with more than 10 Premier League goals; Taylor and Gouffran. Mitrovic was new to the league and still counts as an Under 21. Riviere scored once in the whole of last season. 

Before January, the previous 37 incoming players since 2010 included just 3 with Premier League experience, Colback signed on a free, Obertan and Remy on loan. The other Brits were Elliott and Toney. 

It is hardly surprising that players have had to adapt. It is also hardly surprising that some may have appeared to lack an affinity for the club. The sales of Carroll, Cabaye, Debuchy and others suggest that our role is as a stepping stone if the club can make a profit. 

The situation was partially rectified in January with the purchases of Shelvey and Townsend. Arguably, this was too late but they did make an impact. Saivet and Doumbia on the other hand have 2 starts and 5 sub appearances between them. 

Transfer policy over a period of years, therefore the squad balance has to be a huge factor.
 

Benitez?
Some, such as Freddie Shepherd, may like to point a finger, with 2 wins in 9 games. In reality, he was appointed too late. We saw an improvement in team organisation and discipline immediately. Unbeaten in 5 for the first time this season, he should have been appointed earlier.
 

Lee Charnley?
Ostensibly, Charnley has full delegated powers from the club owner, Mike Ashley. 

If Charnley appointed McClaren, failed to remove him at Christmas, failed to remove him after the FA Cup defeat in January and failed to replace him before the Spanish training camp, then he must take a huge amount of the blame. 

If Charnley is responsible for the transfer policy, then he is to blame. He and his board were appointed by Ashley. In fact he can not be expected to take the blame totally, having been appointed as Managing Director only 2 years ago. The transfer policy has existed for several years. 

Mike Ashley?
The buck should always stop at the top. 

Mike Ashley appointed Charnley. He would undoubtedly have approved Steve McClaren. He would also have approved the appointment of Alan Pardew and then John Carver. He also was apparently directly involved in the appointment of Joe Kinnear, not only as manager but later as Director of Football. 

Ashley would have decided overall policy, not least the cheap purchases from the continent of players without experience of the Premier League. Ashley would have decided the policy of only buying younger players with a sell on value. 

Yes, Ashley bought the club, paying off loans in the process. His cash injection increased the transfer budget in his first year. He also injected cash when Newcastle were relegated in 2009. 

Since then, he has only taken money out of the club. Signings have been financed from sales and from operating income. The club has turned into profit. Its value in the Premier League could have been in excess of £1billion next season. The club has learned to “wipe its nose” just as Ashley should be drying his eyes with the club’s market value shrinking perhaps tenfold. 

As other club owners have invested consistently, those such as Stoke, Southampton,  Swansea, West Brom, West Ham and Palace have overtaken us. Ashley is the man can ultimately decide the club’s future direction. 

The mess is ultimately down to Ashley. He is the only one who can rectify the situation next season.