Alan Shearer has criticised Newcastle for lacking the “characters that are going to fight” against relegation.
The Magpies are languishing second from bottom of the Premier League table following their dire display in a 3-1 defeat at Southampton over the weekend.
Newcastle legend Shearer watched the game in USA during a trip to watch the Masters in Augusta and the former striker called the Magpies’ plight “heartbreaking”, saying they are paying for having a lack of players willing to scrap for the cause.
He wrote in The Sun: “At Southampton they showed no fight at all until it was obvious they could not win.
“They were hopeless for the first 45 minutes and by the time they did improve slightly in the second half, it was already too late.
“Some of the other guys I was sat with were actually saying Newcastle have some decent players.
“Have they? At the moment it is hard to name them.
“Because all I saw on Saturday was Georginio Wijnaldum and Moussa Sissoko go missing again away from home, Aleksandar Mitrovic barely touch the ball and another shambolic defensive display.”
Shearer has pinpointed the club’s recruitment over recent seasons as the primary reason for their current plight.
He continued: “Sir Alex Ferguson was also with me watching the match.
“It was great to be sat there with him — we reminisced and had a few laughs about the ‘old days’.
“But it was just a shame we had to watch my old club put in such a weak performance.
Even Sir Alex was saying how sad it is for him to see Newcastle down at the bottom.
“He knows just how big a club they are and what football means to the area, with 52,000 die-hard Geordies turning up each week.
“But he also admitted he is not surprised at Newcastle’s plight. And let’s face it, we’ve all seen it coming.
“Recruitment has been a big problem at the club. Nobody can dispute that. It is the biggest reason for Newcastle’s decline since they finished fifth in the Premier League in 2012.
“I’m sure Sir Alex, more than anyone, appreciates that it is difficult to attract players to come to live and play up north.
“But those that have been brought in at Newcastle have either not been good enough for Premier League football or not been up for the challenge.
“It is all well and good having ability but ability alone in a relegation scrap is not enough. You need characters that are going to fight.
“You need players that are going to roll up their sleeves and have a right good go.
“That has not been the case for Newcastle unfortunately.
“It is also staggering that a centre-half was not signed in January given how they have struggled defensively all season — conceding 61 goals in 32 league matches.
“Even last summer, only DR Congo star Chancel Mbemba came in and, having played OK early on, he has also looked out of sorts in recent games.
“It says it all that Steven Taylor, who was hooked at half-time at Southampton, and Fabricio Coloccini, who was playing every week before his injury, were two of the centre-halves I had as manager when we were relegated in 2009.
“That alone tells you that centre-half is a position that has not been properly addressed in seven years.”