Newcastle United is presently undergoing an exciting wave of change, all the way from coaching staff, down to youth team squad players and community activities. The Newcastle fans have played a major role in this turnaround, placing constant pressure on the club’s hierachy and affecting Rafa’s decision to stay on as club manager.
This is where I am concerned, that we do not also bring it all crumbling down.
I have supported Newcastle silently since 2010/11. Why I chose Newcastle? I watched an Alan Shearer documentary, quite simple. Also, I watched all the EPL classic matches vs Liverpool and followed games keenly in 2010/11. I found the end to end action and crowd participation very exciting. Coloccini’s goal against Tottenham, a hardworking and united squad, the 5-1 thrashing of Sunderland… It felt like a club that carries everyone along and that’s what I love.
So I’ve only been a fan for 6 years and I do not live in Newcastle, but most times it’s the man on the outside who has a better view, so I believe I’m still in a good position to speak about the issues affecting us.
Truly, Rafa Benitez is as responsible for the positivity and optimism we experience as fans, as he is for that seen amongst the backroom staff and board.
For the first time in years, we see an increased willingness to splash out money on transfers for the right players, and the desire to rebuild a relationship with the fans through community work and social media. But I believe as fans, we need to react carefully and properly to this new change, so we do not ruin it for ourselves. It is time to (gradually) drop the hate campaigns against the club’s hierachy!
Rafa Benitez himself, when speaking of transfers, frequently refers to having discussions with Lee Charnley, what I see as an attempt by him to share the credit for the good work.
We see the same group of people who went and made bad decisions for the club in the past, making good ones now, and most likely because they are taking counsel from a seasoned manager. To be fair to Charnley, Graham Carr etc., if they’d had someone like Rafa Benitez laying down guidelines all along, they would have performed their jobs better. And about the policy on not giving previous managers the final say on transfers, come on… what good could Alan Pardew, John Carver or Steve McClaren have managed?!
On to Mr Mike Ashley himself, the billionaire who bought our club at a tough point in his life (same year he had a divorce if I’m correct). He would initially watch games in the stands with the fans, go to pubs, wear our jerseys, but then things got sour with Kevin Keegan leaving and the massive debt settlement he was allegedly unaware of before buying Newcastle and it all changed.
He has had his numerous flaws, but to his credit has been our financial backbone. No one else wants to buy Newcastle, and honestly the idea of fans owning the club is a massive blunder – but two things have earned Mr. Ashley my respect, and we can all agree on these.
First, Mike Ashley came public to make that interview after the West Ham season finale to say he will make changes at the club. He is known to be a very reserved, behind-the-scenes man, so coming out like that was a huge statement of intent. And the second thing is… he has backed it up with action!
It is obvious that our club has changed a lot since last summer. Steve McClaren turned out a poor choice, but his appointment was seemingly due to his previous standings as assistant at Manchester United and as former England Boss. This was a significant step up in the calibre of coach we had sought after in years.
Also, the transfer market got really busy and the search parameter moved away from cheap players in France, to elsewhere in Europe last summer, and finally England in January (although we still had the odd Saivet and Doumbia!).
The final indication of this strong will to turn the club around being the appointment of Rafa Benitez. What I especially liked about that was the professional manner with which it was handled.
Before the media could start spreading the word (and other teams may have sought him strongly too if that had happened), it was more a done deal. There was no interim manager drama, it was Steve McClaren out, Rafa Benitez in. Leading to where we are currently.
I think it’s time to move forward. We are doing so believing in Rafa and the boys, and we should also believe in our owner and the board. Let them feel loved again, so they can make decisions to favour the club as a whole.
If we show the manager love but estrange his superiors, all we will create is bad blood.
It happened before with Kevin Keegan, and it can happen again. Like any relationship, we must forgive and gradually become Newcastle UNITED again.