Firstly, let me say that this is the minority. The vast majority of Newcastle fans remain firmly behind Rafa Benitez. The media have and will continue to drive a wedge between us and the manager; Richard Keys the latest to launch an ill-informed stance on Bentiez’s NUFC tenure and our current slump in form.
Let’s be clear though, Rafa is NOT above criticism and has made some mistakes like all managers do. But to point to these as the main factor to why we are struggling would be ridiculous and could put the future of not only our season but the club as a whole at risk. People are entitled to their opinion, but I struggle to accept negativity being thrown around in the total wrong direction.
Here’s my message to any Newcastle fans suggesting the Spaniard should be sacked following our recent slump in form:
He is the reason we are the Premiership in the first place
It’s important to remember the club was on its knees last summer. We all expected Rafa Benitez to leave the club after our relegation; after all he could walk into most jobs in the Champions League. We had a high wage bill, a group of players who were desperate to jump ship and an owner who had managed to get us relegated, again.
Benitez stuck with us. He is of course paid well but he would be anywhere he worked. He took a massive risk putting his reputation on the line managing in the Championship, the knives would have been out and everyone in the media was desperate to see us fail that year. We were the only team that went down that year to come in the top six – we won the league. Look at Aston Villa, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Hull City – they would take a Premier League relegation battle over where we are now.
We also did this with a net profit of £30m on transfers. The football wasn’t great to watch and we didn’t blow the division like we did last time we went down. But make no mistake, it was a fantastic achievement. We certainly wouldn’t be considered for a takeover now if we were in the second tier and the likelihood we still would be if it wasn’t for Benitez.
He’s vital to the takeover
A proven winner and world class manager at the helm makes us a far more attractive proposition to buy. It is reported Rafa is central to PCP’s bid and they want to base the future on him being at the club. We have wanted Ashley out more or less since he arrived – he doesn’t understand the club, doesn’t want to invest in it any longer and doesn’t understand football. He hired Jo Kinnear, sold our best players, and re-named the stadium, relegated us twice. We finally have light at the end of the tunnel and Rafa is key to securing that and getting us to this position in the first place.
He is the most decorated manager we have had – who would do better?
There have been some farcical claims on social media that Rafa should move on. These will be the minority of course and the problem with social media is doesn’t represent the views of the majority. However, if you consider it – who would come in? We have the potential to be a big club again but certainly under Ashley the best manager we could attract would likely come from the basement managerial carousel of Paul Clement, Tony Pulls and Steve Bruce et al. Do we really want that?
Under Benitez we have hope that if we get new owners we have a manager who has a pedigree of winning things. He isn’t a relegation specialist but he was supposed to fail in the Championship too as ‘he had never managed there before’. Do we want someone to come in, maybe keep us up and then what? Another decade of mediocrity would await. If we had Pardew or McClaren still in charge we would be calling for them to be sacked, yes. Because they were average managers with average records. They also had far better squads than the one we have currently and made no effort to build a report with the fans.
Benitez is of a far higher calibre than anyone we have had since Sir Bobby Robson. Let’s cherish that.
His mistakes stem from the chronic lack of investment from the Ashley regime
As mentioned, all this doesn’t mean Benitez is immune from criticism. He has made mistakes that have contributed to our bad run. You can point to rotating the goalkeepers, switching and persisting with 4-4-2, continuing to isolate Mitrovic or benching Jonjo Shelvey.
His signings have also come in for criticism – Murphy, Lejeune and Manquillo have been poor at times. But let’s be clear, these were not his priority targets. It was pretty clear he wanted the likes of Abraham, Loftus Cheek, Gibbs, Townsend, Reina, Maguire, Cairney. All far better than the faces who eventually came in.
Rafa even wanted some of these last January in the Championship to get momentum for the Premiership and was let down by the lack of investment then too. He may have been backed heavily prior to our Championship season, but that was to build a squad for the second tier. In the two windows since then he has not been given the backing to create the Premier League outfit he desires.
We may have a top class manager, but it’s possibly our weakest Premier League squad to date in a league that has never been more competitive and full of quality. Just look at relegation rivals Crystal Palace and West Ham and compare their front four to ours. Benteke – Zaha – Loftus Cheek – Townsend / Hernandez, Arnautovic, Lanzini, Antonio / Joselu, Atsu, Perez, Ritchie. It’s a total mismatch but this is what we and Benitez are up against.
Get behind Benitez or contribute to our downfall
There is no mistaking that we are on an awful run and things look bleak at the bottom of the table. The game at West Ham is massive for us but let’s not define Rafa’s reign in 9 games. He had a good run when he took over which almost kept us up, won us the Championship and we had an excellent start to the season.
He clearly hasn’t lost the dressing room, we have a group of committed players who give their all. We lack quality in every area of the field. Our starting XI is arguably the weakest in the league, or certainly one of them. If in June we were told we would start the season with no new keeper, left back, number 10 and our new striker was a Stoke reserve striker we wouldn’t have believed it. Ashley let Rafa down badly in the last two transfer winnows.
Rafa stayed because of the support he had from the fans. He could have walked when we went down, when he didn’t get investment last January and then again this summer. If fans turn on him he will walk. No matter how bad this run gets we need to stick together and with the manager, as we have been doing. It is this that makes Newcastle a big club and why both Rafa and investors see us going places.