AS he trudged off the field at the end of Wednesday’s calamitous Capital One Cup defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, Steve McClaren looked up into the Milburn Stand to see a group of furious supporters hurling abuse in his direction. Such is the way of things at Newcastle United, where the head coach is the only public face of a compromised and rotten regime.

McClaren should not be spared criticism. His team selection on Wednesday night was flawed from the outset, and more than three months into his role, he does not appear to have any idea about his preferred formation or best players. Perhaps he has simply concluded that he doesn’t have any.

Yet to portray McClaren as the cause of the current crisis is to completely ignore the deep-rooted systemic failures that have turned Newcastle into the Premier League’s laughing stock. This isn’t a malaise that started when McClaren was appointed. Newcastle won three games in the whole of the second half of last season, and were similarly dreadful in the second half of the previous campaign under Alan Pardew.

Their problems go back years, so while McClaren, Pardew and John Carver all merit a mention when blame is being apportioned, along with the players who are currently picking up their astronomical pay packets under false pretences, the real villains of the piece are the boardroom triumvirate of Mike Ashley, Lee Charnley and Graham Carr.

They dreamed up the flawed transfer policy that is crippling Newcastle, and it is they who continue to cling to it despite all available evidence highlighting that it does not work.

Of all the comments made last week, the most alarming was McClaren’s admission that the board are already targeting the January transfer window in order to put things right.

Like an alcoholic eyeing their next drink while the dregs from their current pint are still swilling around the bottom of the glass, Newcastle’s boardroom leaders are convinced everything will be okay if they plough headlong into January and throw more money at their beloved continental markets. Never mind that they spent more than £50m this summer and somehow managed to make one of the poorest teams in the Premier League even worse.

Newcastle’s dreadful transfer business is the single biggest cause of the current crisis. Ever since Carr recruited Yohan Cabaye and Mathieu Debuchy, and in the eyes of his employer, turned water into wine, the club have adopted an inflexible and myopic approach to signing players.

They have to fit into a certain age bracket. They have to come from a specific market and fall within a pre-defined price range. And above all else, they have to have a “sell-on value” once their contract expires.

It doesn’t matter if they fit into the squad or not, just as it is inconsequential whether there are gaping holes they do not fill. Newcastle desperately needed experienced defenders and strikers this summer, yet they ended up with a 21-year-old centre-half who cannot speak a word of English (Chancel Mbemba), a 21-year-old striker whose character flaws were well known before he arrived (Aleksandar Mitrovic), a ‘number ten’ who doesn’t have a role in the team because the squad was already well stocked in that position (Georginio Wijnaldum) and yet another over-hyped French winger who clearly sees Newcastle as nothing more than a stepping stone to bigger and better things (Florian Thauvin).

No matter that McClaren wanted Charlie Austin, a player with proven Premier League pedigree. His injury record meant he didn’t guarantee “added value”. Hence, he remained at QPR and McClaren felt compelled to play Siem de Jong as a lone striker on Wednesday night.

Newcastle is a club without an identity because Carr and Charnley sign players who see it as little more than a transit zone. Nobody makes an emotional investment into the team, nobody is prepared to go the extra yard when things become difficult. And even when their commitment appears to have expired, as in the case of Fabricio Coloccini, Cheick Tiote and Papiss Cisse, they remain because they are assets that cannot be knowingly undersold.

Charnley must see that, yet his failure to stand up to Ashley and challenge the failing methodology is preventing any opportunity of change. Only answerable to the person who parachuted him into his lofty position, perhaps the managing director feels he would be demoted if he was to confront his boss? If that is the case, you would imagine he will be going anyway if Newcastle are relegated.

Unwilling to listen to the concerns of his head coach, but unwavering in his loyalty to Ashley, Charnley appears to be blinkered to what is going on around him. And the same is clearly true of Carr, a figure whose reputation far exceeds what he has actually achieved during his time on Tyneside.

If Carr really is the scouting guru he is purported to be, he must surely watch the current Newcastle team in action and see the folly of his ways. Is he really so blinded by his perceived ability to unearth continental gems that he is unable to see that he has assembled a team of footballing mercenaries who do not knit together in anything even approximating a functioning whole?

Admittedly, even as a de facto director of football, you can only work within the parameters that are available, and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest Carr has on occasion delivered a list of targets that have not arrived.

Yet by making the same mistakes time after time, Carr is making an already perilous situation worse. Having been left red-faced by the antics of Hatem Ben Arfa and Remy Cabella, did he really think a £12m investment in Thauvin was wise? And having watched Mitrovic in action repeatedly, could he not foresee the character flaws that have made the striker such a liability so far?

McClaren will sit down with both Carr and Charnley to discuss this summer’s transfer window in the next couple of weeks, and for once, the pair would be advised to listen to the view from inside the dressing room.

Newcastle’s current modus operandi might make money, but it is incompatible with the task of moulding a successful team.