Faustino Asprilla exclusive: Newcastle players don't care enough, Mike Ashley not to blame
Former Newcastle United hero Faustino Asprilla has told Eurosport the blame for the club’s awful season should be laid squarely at the feet of the players, absolving owner Mike Ashley of any blame.
Newcastle, who have two matches remaining this season, moved out of the relegation zone with a win over Crystal Palace over the weekend but if both Sunderland and Norwich City win their games in hand then the club will be back in the bottom three.
Asprilla, who scored 12 goals for the club between 1996 and 1998, believes Rafa Benitez will keep Newcastle in the top flight – where they deserve to be.
“Under Benitez we saw the team improve a bit,” he told Eurosport. “In the last four matches, we drew two and we won two. We are almost safe. I think we can get this goal in the last match of the season and I’m happy for this.
“But, in my opinion, Newcastle need to be at the top level for their history and for the beauty of the city. I really hope they can stay in the Premier League.”
Newcastle United with manager Rafael Benitez shakes hands with Andros Townsend after the gameReuters
Ashley’s leadership has been repeatedly pinpointed as a cause of Newcastle’s malaise, with the summer appointment of Steve McClaren proving disastrous and his stewardship of the club constantly coming under criticism from fans.
But Asprilla says there is no problem with Ashley. Instead, he feels the players are responsible for the predicament Newcastle find themselves in.
“I know him [Ashley], I spoke to him and I met him,” Asprilla said. “I always thought the problem is not the chairman or the owner. The problem, in my opinion, are always the players.
" He is doing everything he can to help the team, but they should be playing with more effort. I don’t think Newcastle’s problem is the owner."
“I think there are players who love this team. But I would like all the players play at a top level like I did. They should love that shirt and make sacrifices for the importance of that team.
“There are players that are not showing these feelings. Newcastle should be fighting for the title, not in relegation zone. I hope that next year they will find players who will fight.”