Rafa latest: Here for the long term?

With Newcastle well placed to gain automatic promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt, attentions are already turning to the summer and another re-building job.

The main focus is undoubtedly the future of manager Rafa Benitez. It was a massive coup to attract the Spaniard to aid our ultimately unsuccessful survival fight last spring. Rafa stayed after following his ‘heart and not his head’. The love of the fans, being near his family who are still near Liverpool and the perceived massive untapped potential of Newcastle all led to him sticking around for a season in the second tier.

After a successful season so far, if not with a few unexpected defeats, the concern for Newcastle fans is now keeping the Champions League winner on Tyneside.  Rumours have circulated since January that Rafa may leave Newcastle this summer if the club don’t match his ambitions.  Cracks appeared when Rafa desperately wanted investment in the January window to solidify our promotion push, with Andros Townsend targeted. Apparently Mike Ashley wouldn’t sanction further outlay on transfers, as he felt we had enough to go up with the squad available. Having just enough clearly isn’t on the agenda for a manager of the calibre of Benitez.

Since then, links to West Ham, Arsenal and China are regularly floated in the media. A lot of this could be tenuous but either way, such speculation causes concern amongst toon fans. It is a different situation to be in for many Newcastle fans as, in all honestly, we haven’t had a manager any club would want to poach in recent memory – Souness, Roeder, Allardyce, Houghton, Pardew (jumped before he was sacked)  McClaren, to name a few.

Rafa does also have an interesting past regarding strained relations with previous employers that Ashley would be wise to consider. After leading Valencia to a brilliant La Liga title, he pushed through a move to Liverpool after he felt the board weren’t backing him in his search for a striker.  Despite his love of Liverpool, he accepted the Chelsea job in 2012, knowing it would be unpopular with fans at both clubs. As much as Rafa listens to his heart as he did with Newcastle, he is ambitious and won’t stay if it’s not on his terms. Loyalty in football only goes so far.

So why is it so important for the future of the club and the fans that Rafa says?

Quite simply, hope.

Since Mike Ashley bought NUFC, there have been countless poor decisions, bad press stories and a story of decline on the pitch.  Before Benitez arrived, the disconnect between the fans, players and board was at an all-time high.

Rallying to almost avoid the drop, doing more work in the community and getting the fans behind the players in their droves; Benitez has transformed the feeling around the club in the past year. For the first time arguably since Sir Bobby Robson, Newcastle have a manager who can attract the players needed to get the club back into the top half of the Premier League on a consistent basis.  It is this hope that has united fans.

This summer, the ball is firmly in Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley’s court. They backed Rafa to the hilt last summer to get him to stay. They abandoned the failed head coach model, invested in players over 30 and made Benitez one of the highest earning managers in world football. If we do go up and the board renege on the progress of last summer and alienate Benitez, it would arguably be the biggest mistake to date by the current regime.

It is expected Rafa wants to maintain total control of transfers and wants significant transfer investment, of around £80m, this summer to align with his plans for the club.

If Newcastle keep their side of the bargain it would appear Benitez will stay, even with other offers. Under the Ashley regime though, times the board has done what would appear logical have been few and far between. As always with Newcastle, an interesting summer awaits.

About Simon Riddlesden

Lifelong Newcastle United fan and East Stand season ticket holder. Observations from a supporter who has followed NUFC during Champions League participation and through relegation, taking me from Milan to Scunthorpe.

26 thoughts on “Rafa latest: Here for the long term?

  1. If we can hang onto Rafa, If???
    We Geordies don’t expect to be at the top of the league, we just want to compete, and every so often a chance to win a bit of silverware…If Rafa stays in Toon we might just have a couple of those days ahead…We dare to dream again..

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  2. Simon is it true that Ashley refused to back Rafa in January or is it speculation based on Ashley,s past history? My view was that we could not get the people we wanted at a sensible price. I sincerely hope Rafa stays but whatever happens Rafa will be diplomatic as usual and not spill the beans. As far as I know he has not accused Ashley of not backing him in January but I will accept it if there is hard evidence. I am not trying to support Ashley but with NUFC there are rumours and speculation about everything. I enjoyed your article.

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  3. I don’t believe at all Ashley refused to back Rafa. we had players waiting to play, some just signed and some injured… and the fact we’re close to promotion justifies not buying anyone.

    who could we get of any worth while playing in the championship? more Haydens, hanleys etc?
    keep the cash for the summer. itll not be long until we see if Rafa is backed by Ashley. I think he will be.

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  4. It will depend on what Jabba is prepared to spend. If he’s only prepared to spend the minimum then Rafa will be gone and rightly so.

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  5. Gashley:
    I don’t believe at all Ashley refused to back Rafa. we had players waiting to play, some just signed and some injured… and the fact we’re close to promotion justifies not buying anyone.

    who could we get of any worth while playing in the championship? more Haydens, hanleys etc?
    keep the cash for the summer. itll not be long until we see if Rafa is backed by Ashley. I think he will be.

    i think Rafas minimum will be slightly more than Ashleys Minimum. Rafa will still want assurances to take us places, hopefully not too ambitious too soon. If he is, then he’ll walk.

    i wonder if he’ll settle for a slow build in the first year. but lets be honest, looking at our squad, it needs some heavy investment in the summer

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  6. Andy Magpie: I think I know what is annoying some of your readers apart from there being a few too many articles open for comment which means a discussion just gets started when another thread pops up.

    It is the mobile site. The “featured discussion” section scrolls sideways from article to article so it is very hard to tell what the latest thread is. This doesn’t happen on the PC site as the latest thread is always static in the left hand corner.

    I think the quality of writing is good and the ads don’t bother me, I can adblock or scroll through them.

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  7. I am looking at the mobile site now and there are 3 separate articles scrolling sideways. If you only pop on now and again it would be hard to tell where to comment. I know the latest one comes up first but I still think it would be a bit confusing.

    It is your site, but if you want a suggestion I would archive the featured discussion articles to the news section as soon as you put a new one up.

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  8. Thanks for reading Groucho…as you rightly say Rafa is too professional to come out openly against Ashley. I just remember his first press conference after the window shut and Rafa was fuming. Could be speculation and me reading between the lines of course – I hope Rafa is backed in the summer!

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  9. Good point mate – there was no point spending money on average players. Let’s hope we can get some real quality in this summer like you say

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  10. We can all agree that we need to strengthen. There has been talk of Rooney and Carrick. I would be disappointed if we considered either of these. We have suffered enough with Man U cast- offs in the past. Rooney is past it and we can’t build a future on Carrick.

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  11. Groucho:
    We can all agree that we need to strengthen. There has been talk of Rooney and Carrick. I would be disappointed if we considered either of these. We have suffered enough with Man U cast- offs in the past. Rooney is past it and we can’t build a future on Carrick.

    That’s just lazy journos mate. Can’t see Rafa buying a Manure player who’s best days are gone and the Carrick link will be the north east thing I expect. I do like Carrick though, but not Rooney.

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  12. Good read mate. Don’t see why Rafa would drop down to the Championship with NUFC just to swan off somewhere else after one season.

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  13. Good stuff again Simon!
    Above all things Rafa’s a very pragmatic guy. Ambitious yes but impatient no. I imagine he sees the job as a genuine progression. Establish in the PL, then go for top 6, then win something. We all read between the lines in January but whatever the cause (Big Sam said there was never a bid for Andros) Rafa appeared upset. However, the tremendous backing he got at the following Derby game probably stabilised the atmosphere and undoubtedly Ashley will have got those two messages. Back the guy to the hilt and don’t shoot yourself in the foot AGAIN.
    As you say Simon it will be a very interesting summer. The East Stand is the place to be!

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  14. RIP Kath the tea lady – funeral day and had a good send off by the look of it. Nice touch from SAFC & Arsenal – plus Pardew – all sent flowers.

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  15. As for the article Simon, welcome mate.

    I think Rafa will be there next season, but I think we have to be realistic on who we will attract.

    I’m happy with keepers. I’m pretty happy with defence, but would like another LB. Happy with Shelvey & Hayden – upgrade Colback and move Diame back and that’s midfielder covered.
    Happy with Ritchie, Atsu would be squad player, so for me we need to focus of width, no. 10 and forward – front players the priority imo.

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  16. Sharpy – where have you been mate? Happy with Hayden and Shelvey in a PL midfield? And the defence? Supreme optimism there.
    I think we need a much better CB than Lascelles, a definite upgrade at LB, a dedicated DM, 2 strikers and some sort of No10. That in my mind would be the minimum for a midtable finish and I don’t want another season of struggle. Having said that I have no idea who those players would be.
    Are we promoted already? What do you think?

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  17. This from the Independent is very interesting – Rafael Benitez has targeted Stoke City captain Ryan Shawcross as his top priority if Newcastle United are promoted this summer. I’d applaud that.

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  18. I think a few of these players we bought were always intended to be one season stop-gaps. Rafa is experienced enough to know that all of his buys would not work out and he has been very hit and miss. Some like Ritchie, Clark, Gayle and Hayden have stepped up and others like Hanley, Lazaar, Sels and Jesus have not.

    We will have to clear the decks again and there is not a hell of a lot of value in the fringe players unless you sell MBemba and Mitro.

    Rafa will probably get the 80 million that Simon mentions from a combination of sales and new money. If spent wisely, that should be enough for mid-table because teams like Watford, Bournemouth and the promoted teams will not ALL go for broke and blow that amount in the hope of staying up because it will be financial suicide for them if it doesn’t work.

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  19. Great summary. I think you’re spot on regarding Rafa. He was managed Real Madrid, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Liverpool etc so perhaps fancies a project to get his teeth stuck into the longer term.

    The East Stand is the place to be, 15 years and counting!

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  20. Thanks mate. Totally agree on being realistic – going to be really interesting to see what difference Rafa makes when attracting players. No. 10 is a massive problem and sure it will be on the agenda. Siem comes back and can offer an option there but only as backup in my opinion – mainly as he is never fit!

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  21. Yeah good point on investment. I think a lot of people, including me!, are concerned on the amount Ashley commits to. Whatever the figure, it will be more than quite a few teams as you say. I also think Rafa’s style suits on the counter attack against better sides (4231) and we will surprise a few – IF we go up of course!

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