I am quickly discovering that Senor Rafael Benitez has a deserved reputation as one of the best coaches in the world for very good reason. In the run up to the Derby game my thoughts were on a possible debut for Murphy or a return for Mitro up top and give Derby’s back-line some worries physically. Little did I imagine that with a new left-back on the books we’d see Dummett keep his place or that Hayden would be dropped and Colback back in the line-up. But we saw all of that and more yet we still won the game with quite a lot to spare.
Those exercises in the local press about picking your own team and all of that palaver is an exercise in nothingness. It is completely meaningless because Rafa’s game-plans and approaches to matches is way beyond anything we’ve ever seen before. There will not be a settled team under Rafa. Our manager will rotate his team in accordance with the form, fitness, motivation of the players at his disposal and with a look at the opposition. The sides we face this season will be unable to prepare for a game with United because they won’t have a clue how his team will be set-up. Occasionally, Rafa will get it wrong but most of the time he’ll be bang on the money and we’ll get the results we’ll need. United doesn’t have a best team, a settled eleven we will get used to. That won’t happen under this manager. This is a whole new experience for us.
Defensively, we are becoming as tight as a drum. We are simply not conceding goals and that unit at the back will get stronger as Rafa’s coaching methods become more embedded into the minds of the players. Those players, I suspect who don’t want to learn won’t be here for very long. They will improve or they will move.
Last season I watched Rafa on the touchline and he managed the team relentlessly. This season we are starting to show signs of really managing games – Reading, Bristol, Brighton and now Derby were masterclasses in closing teams down and we’ve only conceded one goal over those four matches. As a rheumy eyed spectator of Newcastle United over a good few decades now I must confess I am purring at some of our defensive work. Again, this is unchartered territory for us.
We are now second in the league, behind only Huddersfield, who it increasingly appears caught us at the best possible time from their perspective. This is a tough period for us and we will face QPR on Tuesday night when I don’t doubt Rafa will spring a few surprises for everyone. One thing I will be expecting from United on Tuesday however is relentless hard graft of the type that is forming the platform for the results we are achieving.
Whether Hayden, Murphy, Mitro or anyone else makes an appearance on Tuesday night is anyone’s guess but Rafa will
know who is ready, who is 100% and what he needs to do keep a winning run going. Will we play Guthrie (whoops, head up me arse – I meant, Gayle obviously – insert smiley face with red cheeks here) up top as a lone striker? Will we play a target man? Will Shelvey be played further up the pitch? Stop thinking about it, its utterly pointless – only Rafa knows and as he’s demonstrating, he is almost always spot on.
At QPR we will have a full away end sold out. Just like we did at Derby, Bristol and Fulham. That’s on a Tuesday night in London mind you. The support this club of ours gets is phenomenal but now Rafa’s team is earning it.
Then it will be Wolves on Saturday and I don’t doubt Rafa might switch it again. Everyone we come up against will be on the back-foot because they will not know what to expect. Gallowgate Flags will have the display on thirty minutes before KO. Make sure you get in sharp and support this fantastic initiative.
We are on a roll, let’s enjoy it and provide the support from the stands to make it continue for as long as possible.
A few of us associated with this gobshite fanzine somehow managed to find ourselves in extended meetings with Rafa Benitez at the training ground over the last month or so. We were invited to meet Rafa by United and Alex Hurst, Wallace Wilson and I will be recording a Podcast we expect to have available tomorrow night to discuss the whole thing. We hope you enjoy hearing about it as much as enjoyed listening to one of the world’s best football coaches talk football.
We have all the material in now for the next issue of true faith (TF127) and we think it’s going to be another outstanding
collection of writing and provide you with some outstanding analysis of our club, football and the world around it. It should be all be ready in the next couple of weeks so keep your eyes peeled for its publication. If you wanted to join our writing team here at true faith, Newcastle United’s longest running and most popular fanzine.
This is a big week for United but what we have seen over the last four league games is that we have nothing to fear. We need to retain our discipline, motivation and you know what, just leave it all to Rafa.
We’ll have The Special in your in-box tomorrow morning ahead of the QPR and we’ll do it again on Saturday. There is going to be that Podcast I mentioned above and doubtless Alex and the lads will have more previews for us to get down our lugs as well.
We’re going to be busy but you know what, it’s not felt this good for a long while.
Have a great week.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
The true faith SUMMER SPECIAL (TF127) is still available for you to download. It works on any device you care to mention and this current issue is the most widely read issue of the fanzine we have ever published. It is also the most read Newcastle United fanzine of all time. true faith is the most widely read and longest running fanzine currently in publication.