Rafa Benitez has challenged Mike Ashley to ‘change things’ if he wants to see him commit as manager of NUFC, stating that things ‘have to improve’ if he is going to be allowed to create a team capable of challenging in the Premier League.
This fascinating interview comes from the Telegraph after North-East reporter Luke Edwards sat down with the gaffer during our training camp in sunny Spain at the back end of last week – and it really is a brilliant read.
Here’s what Rafa’s had to say, admitting to begin with that things must change at the club if we want to compete every year, stating the importance of not making the same mistakes (take not Mike Ashley):
“It’s not that I am right in every decision, but what’s clear is that if you want to be stronger we have to improve and we have to change things,”
“I came here with the idea to compete and to create a strong team and a strong club, to compete every year. What we have to do if we stay up, is improve. What I said when I said I wanted to stay [in 2016] was that I could see the potential for this club to be in the top 10 and even higher.
“Higher could be in the top eight, but it doesn’t mean it can be in there one year after finishing 15th for three years in a row. You have to be in the top 10, then the top eight, then top seven, six. It depends on consistency.
“The way Newcastle United were doing things [before I arrived], doesn’t mean they were right, because they were going down. Now we have had the chance to go up and we cannot make the same mistakes again.”
Benitez then dug deeper regarding his time on Tyneside so far, admitting that he’s really pleased with his job, but is a manager who ‘likes to do well’, insisting that he does not like to take the responsibility for the mistakes of others (again, take not Mike..):
“Have I enjoyed being Newcastle manager? I enjoy it when we are winning. I like to do well, to do things well and when you can see that something is right, I’m really proud of that.
“But it’s difficult to enjoy it when you are suffering all the time because you have to win and then you lose. The problem in football is, sometimes, you take the responsibility for the mistakes of others.
“I’m sure we can improve the players, improve the team and improve the squad. We can improve some departments and if we do this, then we will be stronger. And then I will enjoy it more, for sure.
“Have I enjoyed this season? No, but maybe the word ‘enjoyment’ is different in English. I’m really pleased with my job. I like it. But enjoyment is when you score eight goals in the Champions League against Besiktas, a record.
“When I hear the supporters singing my name, it makes me very proud, but I also feel that responsibility to do well for them. I am happy with that.
“But when you see fans and they say ‘why this, why that’, it means that still you are doing something wrong. Getting everything right is impossible.
“Still, someone has to make the decisions, someone has to take responsibility. If something is wrong, you have to change, but you don’t have all the tools that you want to have to make the right decisions.”
“We can do it… if we can stay in the Premier League and if we can improve things [but] at the moment, it is difficult.”
One thing that is clear from this interview is Rafa’s huge appreciation and affection for NUFC and the support he has received week in week out over the past two years. It’s also clear that this close bond brings added pressure on his behalf to deliver the success he feels we deserve, however.
He knows the chances of delivering that are slim to non existent if Ashley doesn’t change his ways – and this is where the problem lies.
Rafa is desperate to succeed and unearth the untapped potential he clearly sees within this club, but he’s also aware that his presence brings false hope if Ashley refuses to learn from his mistakes.
He’ll give his all (as he has done all season), but there’s only so long he’ll keep going if he realises he’s fighting a losing battle.
Do the right thing Mike – either back Benitez or sell to someone who will.