The late great Johan Cruyff once said:

“Playing football is very simple, but playing simple football is the hardest thing there is.”

Wonderful words from one of the game’s greatest ever players. A legend.

That footballing philosophy could almost have been written solely for the mess at Newcastle United we have seen in recent years.

Steve McClaren made playing simple football look a near impossibility. I’m struggling to take in how bad things were. He managed to be even worse than John Carver.

If they had allowed McClaren to lead Newcastle into derby day then it could well have been another 0-3. In fact, I’m not sure he would have won another game between now and May.

Rafa Benitez is a significant upgrade. Ultimately, he may not be the salvation we all want and crave, but I’d rather see him in the technical area than Mac.

They had the money all along to pay for a top manager back then!

He’ll bring that simple but effective football back to Newcastle, although he’s only got eight games in which to do it. We’re lucky to have him. It’s a massive coup and I’m amazed that Charnley managed to pull it off.

Come in Number 9

There’s one man Rafa Benitez must turn to if he wants to keep Newcastle in this Premier League – Papiss Demba Cisse.

Goals are needed. Lots of them. Pretty damn quick.

Cisse, still the wearer of the famous number 9 shirt, can offer that. His record speaks for itself. He always gets goals. It’s worth the risk.

Yes, Cisse can be a bit of a luxury, but surely with the derby out of the way the tactic has to be playing with two centre forwards out on the pitch. Target the Norwich jugular. With so little room for error they have to go for it now.

Cisse can draw more space for Mitrovic to make hay. He has the experience to get into the right scoring positions, especially in the penalty area. Benitez knows he has to get service into the forwards.

It’s harsh on Ayoze Perez, who has vast potential. Ayoze has just run out of form and steam. The time feels right to bring a hopefully rejuvenated Cisse back into the first team reckoning. Perez is a perfect sub to fetch on with 20 minutes to go.

Then we have our alleged Dutch master, Siem De Jong. This will polarise opinion – but I think De Jong deserves a chance. Get him in that hole behind the two strikers and see what he can do before the inevitable injury occurs.

Beating the drop

Let’s face it, the chances of staying up are about 50-50 at the moment. Lose at Norwich and we’ll need a miracle.

The clowns in the NUFC boardroom acted far too late in removing the hapless McClaren from his post. The writing was on the wall just after Christmas and still we soldiered on with Mac.

With Rafa we have a chance. It’s a slim one, but there is time to get clear of the mess. We’ll have to play well and we’ll need a bit of luck.

If we go down then I assume a fair few faces will be leaving, not least our trophy laden m manager. What a tragedy that would be. Our best manager since Bobby Robson and it was all just too late in the day.

Benitez is a tactical master and one of the nicest blokes in football. If anyone could pull Newcastle out of the clarts then it’s him.

You can follow the author on Twitter @DavePunton

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