Back in the very early part of February, whilst away in San Francisco on a business trip, I received a text message with the words ‘Rafa on the brink’. After getting over the immediate few seconds of panic and increased heart rate, it became clear that many reliable journalists were healthily backing up this message on social media. Rafa Benitez had made it very clear that he wanted to sign additional players in January (most notably Andros Townsend), to help appease the loss of players to the African Cup of Nations, and to increase the chances of getting our club back to the Premier League. The Townsend signing – he believed – was more than manageable. He had a good relationship with the seemingly out of favour Crystal Palace winger, and had received noises from above that there was money available for January strengthening.
No incoming transpired as it was, and Rafa was massively cheesed off to put it mildly. Well connected journalists suggested that it had got to the stage whereby Benitez felt he had been so let down and misled by Executives, that he could have easily walked away at that stage. Fast-forward five months, and it appears we are into a very similar holding pattern. In fact, this is the second time this Summer that we are hearing about growing discontent from our indispensable manager about a seemingly big gap in the words coming out of Ashley’s/Charnley’s mouths, and what is transpiring in practice.
I have to shake my head at some of the opinions being chucked about by some NUFC fans on Twitter this evening, following on from Craig Hope’s report this afternoon of claims of ‘click-bait’ or unnecessarily hyping the fan-base up into a frenzy.
First and foremost, Craig – like a select group of others, have proven time and time again that they are reliable journalists. And when I say reliable, who indeed do fans believe these guys have as their sources? This information is being very carefully routed from Rafa himself. There’s no bullshit about it. Rafa uses the media to channel his views to help send out his messages and agenda. Many have branded him an expert politician. Whilst he apparently doesn’t embrace that title himself, it is clear that he knows what to say and when to say it to put himself in a greater position of strength. People need to understand this quickly, and stop spouting this garbage that Craig and others are just reporting on it for the good of their health.
Secondly, whilst many can point to the fact that this so far has been a relatively quiet window for many clubs (which is true), the big gaping caveat for Newcastle United, is that we have been here before many times. Let us not forget, that this leadership went through one entire summer transfer window, only adding Vurnon Anita to the playing squad. This leadership sanctioned moves for players against the will of managers and subsequently been proven as ‘liars’ in a Court of Justice. This leadership has consistently made the wrong choices and appointments of Managers, Coaches, and Director of Football. This leadership has presided over two relegation’s. To point to worried Newcastle fans as ‘bed-wetters’ or otherwise when stories break about Rafa’s discontent is naive and misplaced in my opinion. Mike Ashley has a track record of showing his disregard for the success of Newcastle time and time again, and his ‘erratic’ behaviour exposed in last weeks Court Case further highlights the bloke’s worrying character. Newcastle fans have every right to be concerned.
You see, the unique case here – is that most concerned Newcastle fans I would predict, are not so much as worried about player signings, more so that this penny pinching/lack of activity runs the risk of seeing our manager chuck it all in. The thought of it makes my stomach churn, both in the disappointment but also what would happen to the club from a fan perspective. Many would see it as the final straw and would follow Rafa. It’s just inconceivable.
Looking beyond the obvious concerns that (it appears) we are now looking at 2nd, 3rd, or perhaps even 4th choice targets, and their ability to deliver what Rafa wants them to – there is a much more holistic issue here. Rafa has experienced a lack of backing from bosses who he will well know have history not delivering. His trust and faith in those who he hopes will give him 110% support is surely significantly reduced to what it was 12 months ago. Where there is a lack of trust and faith, there is a lack of stability. That’s just not what our club needs.
And as for Ashley, well – you have to ask yourself whether he really cares? What’s changed from his perspective? We are back on the Premier League gravy train. He knew he had to invest last Summer to get the club back on it. This is where you can run the risk of minimal expenditure with big returns at the end. We’re daft to think that a bloke as egotistical and business brave as he is, wouldn’t play with fire again. Its what he does. Serious talk of him selling the club, only goes further to strengthen the chances of his reluctance to spend big. Newcastle is back in a position of financial might. Ashley’s happy.
We’ll need to see how things play out in the coming days. I can’t believe for one moment that heading into pre-season friendlies with only two faces through the door, (one if you discount Atsu) has Rafa feeling content. He’s a man who prides himself on intrinsic preparation, and right now, that preparation is being severely disturbed. Time for Ashley and Charnley to wake up.