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Jamie Carragher: "If Ashley stays, Rafa will have to go"

"The cruellest endeavour he – or indeed any owner – can partake in is to drain the supporters’ hope. Hope is the lifeblood of a football club. It is hope that makes 52,000 supporters go to St James’ Park every week; it is hope that makes them support Benitez, seeing what he has achieved elsewhere and knowing what he can do with more financial support; it is hope that prompted supporters to unfurl the banner at the Burnley fixture on Wednesday evening, pleading with everyone inside that arena to never give up.

"I’m worried for them because I fear they will go down again. They have the best manager of those at the bottom, but a championship squad. St James’ Park should be one of the toughest venues in the country to get a result, yet Newcastle have the second worst home record this season, winning only three of 13 games. They still have Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal to visit St James’.

"My hunch is Ashley and any potential Newcastle buyer are awaiting the value of the next TV deal before determining exactly how much the club is worth. Perhaps the next fortnight will be the catalyst he needs to let go of the club and give the Newcastle supporters the hope they need. Benitez cemented his relationship with the Toon Army when he stayed after relegation in 2016. If they go down again, I doubt he will hang around this time. But even if they stay up I am sure Benitez will not want another season like this. Benitez knew what he was signing up to when he agreed to work with Ashley, but he won’t tolerate this any longer. If Ashley stays, Rafa will have to go."

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