We have the news we have all been desperate to hear. Rafa Benitez is staying at Newcastle United Football Club. Rafa Benitez is also going to be “manager” of Newcastle United with “day-to-day control of football matters”. Rafa Benitez has agreed the scope of his control of Newcastle United and he is the main man at St James’ Park. He has agreed a budget with Ashley who in his turn appears to have instructed Lee Charnley to make it happen. It has happened. Everyone who has made this happen needs to be applauded and that includes Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley. Well done.
This is the best news to come out of St James’ Park in the nine years of Mike Ashley’s tenure at the club. There is lots to be really positive about but nothing more than having, based upon the scope of his achievements in the game, the most accomplished football manager we have ever employed at Newcastle United. With all due respect to some fantastic servants of our club whose names will be embroidered into the club’s history forever and whose memories we will treasure all our lives, Rafael Benitez is, based upon his achievements, the best manager we have ever employed. Benitez has built his reputation on the solid achievements as a football manager. His record and his success have meant he has been in demand across Europe and he has held some of the continent’s top jobs. Benitez has a glittering CV and his name is known throughout world football. As well as his astonishing football expertise, Benitez brings stardust and glamour to the club. This appointment will be in the football news of every major European country. No other club in our position will have such prestige and profile. Immediately, our club has real substance at its core. Rafa Benitez can look any of the world’s top managers in the eye. They all know him and they respect him. Rafa Benitez is the deal.
What is different about Benitez as opposed to any other Head Coach appointed by Ashley or even by Shepherd or Hall is that Rafa has complete control of the football side. I’m not sure any United manager since Kevin Keegan could have seriously been in that position. Rafa will say who comes into United and it would appear Graeme Carr’s poor tenure as de-facto Director of Football is over and not before time. Benitez will decide who comes into the club and who leaves.
It has taken the near relegation misses of Pardew/Carver and the latest demotion inspired by McClaren et al for Ashley to recognise the model he has pursued since KK walked out in 2008 is a busted flush and abandon it. It has taken a financially damaging relegation to bring Ashley to his senses and realise appointing inadequate chancers and yes-men as stooges of a failed model is never going to work. That has gone now. Overnight, we look like a football club again.
Speaking personally, I feel far more positive only ten days after the end of the season in which we were relegated than I was twelve months ago when McClaren grinned his way into United fresh from being sacked at Derby County and looking every inch the nailed on failure anyone who had been paying attention expected him to be. I don’t know about you reading this but my mobile spent much of the afternoon of Wednesday 25/May/2016 buzzing its tits off as various texts pinged their way into my in-box from life-long Mags absolutely delighted about this great news. That will have been repeated hundreds of thousands of times across the Black & White plent.
This gives us a brand new starting point. With Rafa, the relegation that left us reeling only a few weeks ago is being framed as a potential opportunity. Rafa now has the opportunity to quickly rid himself of players whose attitude and application unquestionably contributed to our demotion. He has the opportunity to use the money raised from the sales of those players to reinvest into a new squad that he can build in accordance with a football philosophy that has taken him from Valencia to Liverpool to Inter Milan, Napoli and Real Madrid.
For me, I have yearned for United to be transformed into the top sporting institution we can all be proud to call our own. Everything at United needs to be turned upside down and shaken out.
Big questions need to be asked of those who have largely presided over mediocrity and failure. What is going wrong with the Academy? Why is it failing year on year? Why does it not produce top PL players from a region as football as mad as our own? Why can’t we develop an assembly line like those at Southampton? What is going wrong with our scouting and coaching?
Why does United suffer from far more injuries than other clubs? What is going wrong with our players and the medical care they receive? Is it correctly resourced and do we have the correct personnel?
Rafa has his work cut out in rebuilding an entire football club that has completely lost its way and forgotten its purpose. He needs time. Not everything will be transformed merely by his presence at United. Rafa’s priority will be to get us back into the Championship at the first time of asking. This summer is a challenging one because there are players who will want to leave and who Rafa will want out of United. We can wait another day to debate who should be kept and who should be released. For all of that, I am immensely more confident in Rafa in charge of this process than I have ever been at any time since Kevin Keegan was at United.
We have been told that it has been the warmth of the support towards Benitez that has persuaded Rafa to stay. I think our support for him can only have helped to confirm Newcastle United is the right club for him but also I believe it placed incredible pressure upon Ashley to make this happen. Without Rafa Newcastle United was holed under the water and I’d have been exceptionally concerned about the future of the club had this marriage not been blessed.
Now we have to show Rafa has made the right decision by joining our club. We have to trust him and we have to support him and his teams in every minute of every game this coming season. Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of the club we all love. We have to believe what he tells us in a way we have not done since the days of Kevin Keegan. Benitez’s stature in the game means he has taken this job on his terms and this appointment represents a complete change of direction for the club.
Many of our fellow supporters, good, loyal Black & Whiters have walked away from the club in recent seasons and I can only say I don’t blame them. But the arrival of Rafa Benitez represents a new beginning and I encourage every Mag who has grown weary at one disappointment after another to rally behind this man and our club as we start a new chapter in our history that has so much promise in it. Fill SJP next season for every game and demonstrate to the football world that ours is a serious football club on the way back.
There are loads reading this whose cynicism has matched my own in latter years but that has to be parked for the foreseeable future. Now is the time to get right behind Rafa and the players he will put out in our colours next season. That doesn’t mean we become blindly loyal to Mike Ashley. We have every right to ask questions of the board and provide scrutiny of how they are running our football club. The appointment of Rafa Benitez doesn’t mean everything at United is hunky-dory because it absolutely isn’t. But I am convinced the football side of the club has taken a massive step forward with Rafa’s confirmation as our manager. I would like to see Carr’s departure confirmed. I would like to see a proper, experienced CEO appointed with a remit to both support Rafa and develop the business-side of the club so that it can grow its revenue and in turn reinvest it within Newcastle United FC.
As supporters though, we want to have some fun and enjoyment following our football club. It hasn’t been like that for a long while. This will be the fourth time in my supporting life I’m potentially looking at a promotion season. Each one for their various reasons has been highly memorable and enjoyable. We can hopefully regroup this summer and strike out next season on a new adventure with our new leader. It won’t be easy and we know it’s going to be tough but on and off the park we have to be United. We have to be part of a just and righteous cause to get us back to the top division and when we do get back, be about more than just making up the numbers.
But next season can’t quickly enough now can it?
Have a great week.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
This is issue 125 of true faith, Newcastle United’s longest running and most widely read fanzine. It is available on any device (we particularly like it on tablet or i-pad) and it is also absolutely and completely FREE. We all hope you enjoy it. We’ll have the SUMMER SPECIAL available for you all next month.