London (AFP) – Newcastle United’s managing director issued an apology to fans after relegation from the Premier League, saying the club were “devastated” and “truly sorry”.
Bitter north-east neighbours Sunderland’s 3-0 win at home to Everton on Wednesday was enough to put Newcastle in the Championship as they were consigned to the dreaded drop alongside Norwich City and Aston Villa.
“Tonight we are devastated at our relegation from the Premier League, as I know every single person connected to this football club will be,” said managing director Lee Charnley in a statement on the club’s website.
“I want to thank all of the fans for the support you have shown for the club you love throughout the season, in spite of this massive disappointment and underachievement.
“Your support throughout has been magnificent, but I want to pay particular thanks for the incredible backing you have given to Rafa (Benitez) and the team during the latter part of the season.
“Nothing more could be asked of you and I am truly sorry we have not given you the outcome you deserve.”
Newcastle’s demotion, which comes 12 months after a last-day victory against West Ham preserved their Premier League status, puts the future of manager Rafael Benitez in doubt.
The Spaniard was in charge of giants Real Madrid at the start of the season before being sacked in January.
Benitez took over from Steve McClaren in March, but with a reported release clause in his contract that could be triggered if the club were relegated.
“We know that supporters want to know what the future holds and will want to hear more from us as soon as possible,” added Charnley.
“Right now, of course, Rafa and the team must prepare for the final game of the season but after that, please rest assured we will communicate more fully with supporters.”
Some players took to social media to express their feelings.
“Absolutely gutted! But we have to pick up and start again to come back stronger,” tweeted Newcastle defender Jamaal Lascelles.
Former players vented their anger, with record goal-scorer Alan Shearer tweeting: “You can’t pretend it hadn’t been coming.
“@NUFC not learned lessons from 2009. Hard as it is for me to say, well done Sam and @SunderlandAFC,” added Shearer, referring to their last relegation from the Premier League.
Newcastle now hold the unwanted title of being the most expensively assembled side to be relegated from the Premier League, according to the UK’s Daily Telegraph.
The club’s net expenditure of £80 million ($115 million, 101 million euros) on players this season is second only to Manchester City in English football.
Champions Leicester City’s net spend, by contrast, was just over £30 million.
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