We’re now over a month on from that brilliant final day win at Fulham, yet uncertainty has taken over on Tyneside once again.
In the Mike Ashley era, and especially over the past few seasons, we have an uncanny knack of ending the season on a high, but being quickly brought back down to earth as poor communication and painfully slow decision making sees our summer start into limbo.
We’re now in mid-June, Rafa’s current contract expires in two weeks time, the BZG ‘takeover’ remains somewhat of a mystery and the club are staying silent, but there’s one of FOUR possible outcomes set to take place one way or another this summer.
One of the following four is going to happen:
- New owners arrive & Rafa stays
- New owners arrive & Rafa leaves
- Mike Ashley stays & Rafa stays
- Mike Ashley stays & Rafa leaves
1. New owners arrive & Rafa stays
This is the scenario we’re all dreaming of.
Seeing the Bin Zayed Group buy the club would not only mean the end of Mike Ashley, but their arrival would also give Rafa Benitez every chance of actually fulfilling the club’s potential for the first time since he arrived three years ago.
We still don’t know a great deal about Sheikh Khaled and the BZG, however their ethos sounds like a perfect fit to both Newcastle United and Rafa Benitez: “We believe nothing should be left to chance when it comes to our pursuit of excellence. Our interests are best served – when we serve the interest of the public. Continuous Improvement is essential to our success.”
The combination of ambitious owners, a world class manager, a playing squad with potential and a bouncing 52,000 crowd is a tantalising prospect and real remedy for success.
2. New owners arrive & Rafa leaves
This would be one of the most bittersweet moments in the club’s history should this happen.
In one sense we’d be absolutely delighted and relieved to see the back of Ashley, but should they arrive AFTER Rafa’s contract expires (June 30th) and then choose to pursue a different manager, it would be a tough one to take.
There’s been talk that they’d want either Mourinho or Wenger should they complete a takeover, however it’s hard to know if that’s genuine or just the national press seeing two high-profile managers out of work, knowing some new owners like their own man in charge and deciding to write a flimsy story on it to get inevitable views from Newcastle fans desperate for ‘news’.
It’s sad to say, but if someone offered me ‘option 3’ (Mike Ashley staying and Rafa staying) or ‘option 2’ (BZG arrive and a new manager replaces Rafa), I feel I’d have to take the latter. The dream scenario is option 1, however you can’t help but feel things are always destined to end in tears if Benitez is left working under Mike Ashley. After all, he’s been putting up an admirable fight, but it’s a losing battle when he’s trying to get a club tied to chains back competing with big spending contenders (Wolves, Everton, West Ham) and back into Europe.
Mike Ashley clearly isn’t going to change, so bright and ambitious new owners along with a new manager of their choice (who is likely to be more than capable should it come to that) would be the second best scenario for me – even if I’d be devastated to see Rafa Benitez leave just as the one thing he’s been waiting for arrives.
3. Mike Ashley stays & Rafa stays
I’m sure some fans would take this given so many refuse to believe a takeover is happening – and I don’t blame them based on recent failed ‘attempts’ to buy the club from Staveley and Kenyon.
It’s a far from the ideal scenario, meaning Ashley would be still at the helm following a THIRD successive failed takeover approach, but while Benitez is hear we at least have hope – and a world class who’s proved over the last three seasons that he can still manage to make the best out of a very bad situation.
That said, you have to question whether Rafa will actually commit to a new deal under Ashley given he seems unwilling to compromise. If a takeover fell through, Rafa would be faced with another rushed summer and uphill battle ahead of the new season. This is EXACTLY what he didn’t want, so he’d have every right to walk away.
Who knows though. He’s never given up on this club over the past few years and is gradually building a decent side – albeit on limited resources – so maybe he’d like to continue working with the likes of Longstaff, Schar, Dubravka, Lascelles and Lejeune. Then again, he may feel like it’s a case of one step forward and two steps back if we go into the new season without Perez and Rondon and a lack of quality replacements (see Ki in for Merino last summer!).
I don’t see us competing properly for 7th and knocking on the door of Europe if Rafa was forced to work under Mike Ashley’s constraints, however there is at least a feeling that we could push towards the top 10 and would NOT go down. Small dreams I know, but it seems OK when compared to the fourth and final scenario – an option which would have us all fearing relegation immediately.
4. Mike Ashley stays & Rafa leaves
It goes without saying that this is the nightmare scenario.
Seeing a takeover ‘fall through’ would be frustrating enough as it is, but then losing Rafa Benitez as a result would be devastating.
It’s not even worth thinking about who would replace the Spaniard this summer if it came to that, with any top manager likely to be reluctant to work under Mike Ashley.
Not only that, you’d have to question just how many of our start players would push for moves if Rafa left. After all, Benitez is the one man who’s given us hope over the past few years, and without him it would feel like we’re only going to go one way.
We all know Mike Ashley is happy to spend the bare minimum if he believes we’ll do just about enough to stay up, but relegation fears would go through the roof if Rafa left – especially when some of our top players and several fans would follow him out the exit door at St James’ Park.
The club is reaching a huge crossroads, with the next few weeks having the potential to be some of the biggest in the club’s recent history.
After a painful and uncertain start to the summer, let’s hope we’re left with a positive conclusion.