Joey Barton has claimed Newcastle will never get to where they want to be while Mike Ashley remains as owner.
The sportswear tycoon put the club up for sale in October after admitting he could not afford to provide manager Rafael Benitez with the finance to implement his vision for the club, only for takeover talks with Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners to collapse last month.
Having allowed the Spaniard to invest heavily in his squad in the wake of relegation, Ashley has made only limited funds available since and the manager was left scratching around for loan signings as the January transfer window drew to a close.
Former Magpies midfielder Barton cannot understand the gamble on the club retaining its top-flight status having twice fought its way back after slipping into the Sky Bet Championship during Ashley’s tenure.
He told the Chronicle: “The club will not be the club it could be while they’ve got the owner they’ve got. He’s not going to change. It’s sad, but that’s his way of doing things and I feel sorry for the supporters because they do deserve more.
“It’s a huge football club and it should be in the Premier League – it should never be out of it or even in a position where they’re thinking it might not be. It’s a sad predicament of mismanagement.
“They spent loads of money on players in the Championship and then get up to the Premier League and spend no money. I just don’t get it. I don’t get what he wants to do.
“Does he want to keep yo-yoing between the two divisions? Is that the plan? He owns the football club, but it needs a change of regime.”
Barton, who is currently serving a Football Association ban for betting offences, played a key role in Newcastle’s first promotion under Ashley, but left in August 2011 after talks over a new contract ended abruptly.
He retains an affection for the club, but fears it could lose Benitez if he is not backed.
The manager was eventually able to bring in three players – keeper Martin Dubravka, midfielder Kenedy and striker Islam Slimani – on loan in January as a third disappointing transfer window in his four on Tyneside ended with something of a whimper.
Barton said: “They have a good manager there who, if you give him a bit of money, he tends to do well. He’s a wily character and he knows how to build successful football clubs.
“But he keeps getting the Ashley nonsense on transfers, so the question has to be whether he will stay there or not. It’s a perfect club for someone like Rafa. It could grow to be something so much bigger than what it is now.”