Rafa’s Way: The Resurrection of Newcastle United by Martin Hardy
Starting optimistically with a reminder of the affection shown to Rafael Benítez during the final game of the disastrous 2015-16 relegation season, an educational mini biography of Rafa’s career to date kick starts author Martin Hardy’s 3rd book documenting Newcastle United since 1982.
Clearly avoiding being a glorified season review of the 2016-17 season, chapters may focus on the majority of games but diversify to include introductions to key players, stories that shaped the season as well as telling of sacrifices made to get to a game. The ever-loyal Dave and son Phil are documented travelling to witness a record-breaking victory at QPR confirming that at times, the commitment made to support United really do make it worthwhile.
Cleverly linking discussions with the manager throughout, it is fitting that Kevin Keegan’s revolutionising of the club is compared to the positive impact Benítez is having not only on the football club but the City as a whole. Hardy also confirms what we already believe as Rafa’s connection with the working class is portrayed especially when the foundation has its first ever awards night. At this point Benítez ‘could see it [staying together] was growing and everybody is enjoying things.’
Reliving classic comeback games of yesteryear following the Norwich victory at St James’ reminds you of those precious moments supporting Newcastle that will long live in the memory as well as a realisation that at times, like the author did in this alcohol-fuelled instance, we celebrate an unexpected win like there is no tomorrow.
Nostalgia filled anecdotes broaden the smile as we’re reminded of the 12,000 partisan supporters at Anfield in 1984 as well as Hardy reminiscing of his first away match experience at Goodison Park when proudly informing us that his son had begun his life on the road following United. In a season that included a record breaking away victory count, obviously his debut ended in defeat.
As the season progresses it becomes more evident that Hardy has earned the trust of the manager and a sign of a good book is being well informed along the way. Hardy’s ability to include unknown, to this reader, facts (i.e. United had only achieved promotion once at home in their history before 2016-17) added substance to what really is a remarkable turnaround on NE1.
But it isn’t all about Benítez as what appear genuine thoughts of players who really want to be here commonly talk of a vastly improved unity amongst the squad and how much they want to do well for the club. The likes of Ritchie, Lascelles, Gayle and Colback also discuss the high standards their positively obsessive manager has set them and it is no surprise that all claim to have improved under his stewardship.
We’re reminded of players from the past as Beresford, Harper, Shearer and the tragic Pav are covered in some capacity in what is a superb account of a season that covers the difficult times as well as the nerve-wracking title run in.
‘This Championship year was just to adjust things and then you have to go again,’ Benítez tells Hardy as Rafa’s Way insightfully captures the reawakening of the Club as well as the feel-good factor Benítez has given us supporters for posterity.
‘It’s him as a person, it’s not forced. If you give honesty, integrity and your heart to the football club you’ve got half a chance of doing well as the fans will follow you and back you,’ said Hardy when discussing Rafa on the True Faith Podcast. With Benítez repeating an unofficial motto of ‘Together we are stronger’ throughout the season, looking forward to a return to the Top Flight with continued hope and buoyancy appear realistic with this calm man in charge.
Follow Marc @NUFC_1980_1994
Buy Martin Hardy’s book here:
Check out the true faith podcast with the author here