Should Mike Ashley bear all the blame at Newcastle United?
In 2006, Akon released a smashing single titled: 'Sorry, Blame It On Me'. The Senegalese-American singer uses the song's first few stanzas to admit guilt and apologize. He then coins a melodious chorus urging the listener to put all the blame on him.
One man who never wrote or sang such lyrics is Mike Ashley. Still, that hasn't stopped Newcastle United supporters from heaping blame for the club's woes on his doorstep.
Ashley, a British billionaire, bought Newcastle United in 2007. On first taking over, he instantly became a darling of the fans. His wealth hauled the Magpies away from administration threat and ensured they remained a mid-table Premier League team ready to challenge for European places. That came through seven seasons ago. Finishing fifth secured a Europa League ticket.
Fast forward just over 11 years after Ashley's arrival, tables have turned drastically. Newcastle were relegated twice during that time, with nothing to show save two Championship titles.
The Toon Army is incensed. Supporters want Ashley gone by morning. They do not miss any opportunity to show anger, in an effort to force the owner to cut all club ties. The song 'stand up if you hate Ashley' is now popular in St James' Park.
Fans' distaste has gradually been building. Many feel Ashley is running Newcastle United like a corner shop. The Sportswear mogul parades himself as one of them, but supporters aren't beguiled. For them, he isn't doing enough. They believe his actions alone have landed the Magpies in this mire.
Rafa Benitez guided Newcastle to a 10th place finish last campaign. It was expected Ashley would furnish the Spaniard with funds to bring in better players. That didn't happen. The Magpies were the Premier League's fourth-lowest spenders this past summer.
For a squad already lacking strength, taking that particular route was always going to prove lethal. Newcastle have lost six of eight games played this season. Five came in the league. No win and only two points leaves them in the bottom three.
There are Toon fans who do not mind the current struggle as long as it gets Ashley out the door. Can this continue, though?
Despite talk of former Chelsea and Manchester United chief executive Peter Kenyon plotting a takeover bid, nothing is concrete. Newcastle must stick with Ashley for the time being.
Time to lay fault beyond Ashley
Ashley may not have parted with the cash to bolster Benitez's squad, but that doesn't take away from the fact Newcastle possess some decent talent.
It's time the players stepped up. A team is a collective unit, one which thrives when individuals work for the next man. Ashley, although the main power at St James' Park, isn't responsible for producing on the pitch.
Jonjo Shelvey, Ki Sung-Yueng, Joselu, Salomon Rondon, Kenedy, Matt Ritchie and Mohamed Diame are all packed with quality. Each could help the Magpies climb the table should their form improve.
However, the players can only do so much. For the first time since joining in March 2016, Benitez was turned on during a game. That happened in the 2-0 home defeat to Leicester City last Saturday. He now needs to change approach. His pragmatic style isn’t yielding any dividends. Employing a different system is the only way out of insanity.
Benitez says he sets up defensively due to Newcastle lacking the quality of the big spenders. This is the wrong thing to admit publicly. Instead, he should instil the belief in his team that all matches are winnable. Such is only possible if the Magpies begin playing attacking football. They have the players to make it succeed.
Toon fans should forget about Mike Ashley for now. They must unite in supporting their side. It’s Newcastle United after all.