Well, Rafa Benitez has only gone and… not gone!

Who’d have thought that a year ago? The Real Madrid manager? Choosing us?!

It’s been sinking in, and even the Sunderland folk at work couldn’t think of a bad thing to retort about this. Some sort of stubbed out a non-existent tab in front of them, mumbling about Sam ‘have you got any more chewing gum, I’ve only got fifty bits in my mouth’ Allardyce being exactly what they need.

Rafa Benitez should be exactly what we need. Proven quality; respected by fans and players; has a plan that doesn’t involve waiting to be judged after twenty games. For the first time in a long time, I’m actually quite optimistic about the new season. And we haven’t even signed Lionel Messi. Yet.

Word around the Year 3 campfire, according to the young ‘un, apparently, is that we’re going to sign Neymar. Now, I’m not sure about their sources, but I’m not convinced about this one. What with him costing a gazillion quid, and commanding a salary in the region of somewhere in space. Mind, the source of their transfer speculation seems to be whoever is on their latest Match Attax card. It looks good being eight years old.

But close your eyes… read that text from your mate sending frantic texts… check whichever black and white flavoured website you check… and Neymar/Messi/insert dream signing of choice, is standing outside St. James Park, signing shirts and posters and dogs and… now open your eyes.

It’s happened before.

It happened when Alan Shearer turned the summer of 1996 into this football shaped cake with a cherry on the top.

rafa benitez

It happened when Kevin Keegan turned up in 1992 and saved our pants.

It happened when he signed as player in 1982.

rafa benitez

And in a way, you could say that the crazy day in 1982 sowed the seeds of ghast being flabbered, even more than 15 million quid in 1996 that made us the worldwide benchmark for writing your address on the back of a cheque.

In the summer of 1982, I had reached the giddy know-all age of nine. So had the other lads playing football on a road in Fenham. Some –get this- were ten. And one of them, who was about fifteen, therefore a fountain of undisputed knowledge, had gone in for his dinner.

Ten minutes later, he came belting out of the house, tripping over words. He couldn’t get them out quickly enough, but they sounded like “Signed! Keegan, us! Kevin, Newcastle United!” Eh?! Thankfully, my mam had been watching the news too, and came out of our house to retell the same story. At first I thought someone had died, because she was still wearing her slippers. But she put the unbelievable words in the correct order.

It was the first time I had watched the lunchtime news without waiting for Rainbow to come on.

Newcastle went mad.

The queues went around the ground. Tyne Tees and the BBC went into headline hyperbole overdrive. By the end of the day, we were national news. We were Newcastle United, and thanks to a deal with Scottish and Newcastle, Kevin Keegan, one of the most famous and talismanic footballers in the world, was a Newcastle United player.

The fairy tale became a reality when Special K/King Kev/insert other name for Kevin Keegan, took the ball around QPR keeper Peter Hucker, barely side footing it hard enough to cross the line. But over it rolled. It had to.

So even though we know Neymar won’t sign for us, and neither will Lionel Messi, I’m not taking anything away from these Year 3 lads and their fanciful ways. I mean, why would one of the most famous footballers in the world sign for a second division club?

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