I think Rafa Benitez has met all of his objectives and then some – this has been the best transfer window I’ve known at the club for quite some time.
The deadwood has been cleared out and we’ve removed players who didn’t have their heart with the club. We have also restored some balance to the squad with competition for places in every position and we’ve shored up the options with plenty of pace, youth and championship experience.
Barring the odd player we might have preferred to have brought in, I think we can consider this window a complete success.
Highlights for me are:
Isaac Hayden who has done a cracking job in defensive midfield.
Mo Diame who adds creativity to our attack that we’ve otherwise lacked.
Matt Ritchie who had done a great job on the wings and assisted some crucial goals.
We’ve got Dwight Gayle as our latest number 9 and early signs are he will be a very worthy occupant of that shirt.
All of these players I have every confidence will step up at the top level if we make it back to the premier league.
And then we have almost an entirely new back four with Yedlin and Lazaar new on the flanks and Grant Hanley & Ciaran Clark providing options at center-back. We’ve provided pace and a mix of youth and Championship experience that I am sure will stand us in good stead.
So at the moment things are looking on the up and I haven’t had this feeling for many a year.
We’ve previously signed players and been optimistic but this is more than that – it’s a total sea-change in the way the club is thinking.
I was delighted to see that not even one day after the window shut, that Rafa took the time to give a short interview to the club website. Every single thing he said excited me. It was just the sort of thing you want to hear from a manager after a long deadline day.
What excited me most was this….
“We are not a stepping stone, we are Newcastle United.
“Every player should be honoured to wear the shirt of this Club.
“They should feel the same passion that the fans feel, then you have a great relationship between the players and the supporters in the stadium.”
Rafa just gets it. He gets what Newcastle United is all about and I really hope we have many more years of him at our club, challenging at the right end of the Premier League. It’s a great project and I’m glad Rafa is on board.
I was saying to a friend earlier, even if he doesn’t win us a trophy what I really hope with Rafa is that he increases the stature of the club in terms of expectation and competitiveness.
We’ve fallen so far as a club in recent years. I even put it as far back as the night we lost on penalties to go out of the Champions League in 2003. A year after that we sacked Sir Bobby Robson and haven’t quite had it as good ever since, despite the odd purple patch.
Rafa can’t be a one-off. I don’t know if Ashley will still be here by the time Rafa goes, whatever those circumstances might be, but he can’t let this opportunity go by going back to his old ways.
For now we go forward and I think all Newcastle United fans have reason to be very optimistic. It might take a little while but now I think we have a real chance and real hope.
You can follow the author on Twitter @jonniegrieve.