After years of putting up with sub-par managers, we may finally have a leader to match the likes of King Kev and Sir Bobby.
While Kevin Keegan came so close to bringing Newcastle a trophy, and Sir Bobby righted the ship and brought passion and quality to match what the Toon Army expects, we have been void of a manager that sparks any kind of excitement and enthusiasm in the supporters.
Our managers since Sir Bobby Robson have failed to inspire (although Chris Hughton and Glenn Roeder were two that I feel deserve some acknowledgment for their contribution) and seemed to be place fillers for an administration that has no aspirations.
Yet with our latest appointment, we finally showed some ambition, to the point where it was almost unbelievable when Rafa Benitez arrived.
And while it is very early and we could potentially see his reign end in just a couple of weeks, I believe Rafa should be held in the same esteem as King Kev and Sir Bobby. While Kev took us so close to royalty with runners-up attempts in Premier League campaign, and Sir Bobby brought the knightly heart to restore us to Europe, San Rafa could be the saint to save the soul of the club.
Rafa’s appointment had the immediate effect of restoring the faith of the Toon Army at a time when everyone seemed to have admitted defeat.
Defeat against the ownership that has failed to show any desire for success, and defeat in a relegation battle that seems like it could end up being even more damaging than 2008/09. Rafa immediately brought a renewed sense of hope that perhaps we weren’t doomed after all.
It was obvious to see the change in attitude among the supporters, but it was even more striking within the players, who suddenly realised they had something to fight for. Rafa has restored the faith of everyone from players to supporters and, most importantly, hopefully to the owner.
More than this though, Rafa Benitez can save the soul of the club.
We have seen this through the players, with Rafa willing to take risks that his predecessors didn’t have the guts to, and leave out players who didn’t show the commitment to the cause. Benitez may be uniquely positioned in the long-term to have the clout to actually ensure that this is not just reflected in our starting line-up, but also on our recruitment policy.
Instead of buying those players that offer the best (Ed: ALLEGED!) return on investment, Rafa has the skill and the ability to do what Pardew and McClaren couldn’t – bring in players who will be committed to the club.
His reputation gives him the opportunity to actually change how the administration approaches the success of the club and he has the ability to keep the soul of the club while working with Ashley.
While our chances of survival are in the balance to say the least, and there is almost no chance that Benitez would stay if we were to be relegated, I fear Rafa may be our only hope either way. If we went down, I couldn’t think of a better manager to be able to convince the players we need to stay, and to develop a squad capable of returning and succeeding in the Premier League. And if we stay up, he may be the only person willing to work here with the ability to positively influence both the team’s performance and the ownership’s running of the club.
So whether or not we stay up this season, we need to do everything in our ability to keep Rafa Benitez around, because San Rafa could be the only one to restore the faith and save the soul of the club.