First of all, I just want to say how refreshing it is having a proper manager, Rafa Benitez has exposed just why Newcastle United have ended up in the position they find themselves in.
Recruiting weak and desperate yes men in the shape of Pardew, Carver and McClaren pretty much ensured that the club could never survive in the Premier League when you also took into consideration the crazy and manipulative way Mike Ashley runs the football club.
You aren’t going to get a decent manager who will accept having no say in transfers in and out, no real ambition apart from staying in the Premier League, then on top of all that – be lone spokesman and read from a script that ensures as much blame is deflected away from the club’s owner, no matter how ridiculous it sounds what you are ordered to say.
So Rafa Benitez walks into a Newcastle United that has been all but razed to the ground by the combined efforts of Ashley, Pardew, Carr, Carver, Llambias, McClaren and Charnley.
Only 10 games remaining and a demotivated, underskilled, overpaid workforce, with no opportunity to bring in short-term replacements to fight relegation.
Getting his feet under the table, Rafa Benitez needed a few matches to get his bearings and find out exactly what he had to work with.
It took three or four games but he then had to accept just how badly the transfer policy had failed, had to accept that price tags and reputations of players were meaningless where the Newcastle players were concerned and had to take a massive leap of faith.
It was either that or stay with the status quo and definite relegation, which is of course what Steve McClaren would have done.
Even as Newcastle would have been making the drop into the Championship, probably with around five or so games still remaining, he would have been heard still claiming that this was a great group of players who were just unlucky…as they shut the door on his well padded room.
So Rafa has gone about making radical surgery and the likes of Mitrovic, Shelvey and Wijnaldum have found themselves sitting on the bench. whilst Benitez has gone about forming a team from the forgotten, the grafters, the limited, the (previously (allegedly)) sick and the few with real who are really good enough.
So with six games to go I looked at the fixtures and my wish list was:
Swansea win, a draw from either Man City or Liverpool, beat Palace and Villa, which would get us to last day v Spurs on 35 points.
So now we are one ahead of schedule and wins over Palace and Villa would now put us on 36 points before the final match.
Sadly, I find myself getting the sinking feeling that for all the hope Rafa Benitez has given us, he has indeed had an impossible job.
To make it even worse, the shadow of the dark forces hangs over us, or ‘Big Sam’ as he is known to his many media mates.
I look at the fixtures Norwich and Sunderland have left and I have a horrible feeling that even if Newcastle won their last three games it might not be enough…
Arsenal (A), Man Utd (H), Watford (H), Everton (A)
Arsenal (H), Stoke (A), Chelsea (H), Everton (H), Watford (A)
Both Newcastle and Sunderland are now on 30 points and Norwich 31 (Sunderland 8 goals better than us on GD and Norwich one better).
So if Newcastle win the next two, if either of our competitors also won two, then they would be above us still.
Doesn’t then take a genius to work out that if Newcastle win against Spurs to make it three victories, then three wins for one of Norwich/Mackems still makes Rafa’s efforts worthless.
Obviously we are now at a point where you can only do what you can with your own games and hope for luck elsewhere.
A big shame that the games against Sunderland & Norwich hadn’t come later in Rafa’s brief reign, as I think he would have then known who he could trust the best and would have got at least four points from the relegation competition and of course denied them some points as well.
I think we would be unlucky if Norwich won two games and definitely can’t see them getting more than six points, so two wins for Newcastle would probably see them off and two wins and a draw definitely.
However, my gut feeling is that Sunderland will definitely get two wins, especially with clubs like Everton and Watford looking like they have decided their seasons are over.
If the mackems get three wins we are done and there was nothing realistically that Rafa Benitez could have done to counter that.
Too much of a mountain to climb and too little time.
A flaky Arsenal visit Sunderland today and thankfully they still have it all to do if they want to ensure Champions League football next season.
A win for Arsene Wenger and the scales tip ever so slightly in Newcastle and Rafa’s favour, it might be enough, just maybe, to be the possible difference at the end of the season.
These next three weeks are going to be an uncomfortable ride – enjoy.