Difficult to believe that in a few months it will mark 20 years since Hall and Shepherd forced Les Ferdinand out of Newcastle United.

The regime running the club then, thinking it was ‘great business’ to sell Sir Les for £6m to Tottenham because he was now 30 years of age.

Newcastle were heading into their first ever Champions League campaign and instead relied on past-it players on free transfers, with Ian Rush, John Barnes and Stuart Pearce coming in, with Alan Shearer picking up a serious injury just as Hall & Shepherd were due to bank the £6m for Les Ferdinand.

Possibly the worst ever decision based on short-term cash, which was wasted anyway on the likes of Andreas Andersson and Stephane Guivarc’h.

Les Ferdinand had been one of the central figures as Newcastle finished second in the Premier League in each of his two seasons.

Up to the present day and Newcastle United are once again looking to recover from disastrous decisions by a club owner and in the opinion of Sir Les Ferdinand, Rafa Benitez has done a ‘fantastic’ job.

As QPR’s Director of Football, he is also at the sharp end when it comes to dealing with the demands of the second tier.

Les Ferdinand believes that it is ‘harder to get out of than people think’ and relegated Aston Villa and Norwich have had a season of sacked managers and failure to reinforce that point.

The former Newcastle number nine (and ten!) thinks the biggest challenge for Rafa was possibly that of lifting the ‘depression’ that enveloped everybody after relegation

It is difficult to imagine anybody other than Rafa Benitez who could have provided such a positive outlook so quickly, after Mike Ashley’s second relegation in only seven years.

Les Ferdinand talking to the Chronicle:

“I felt that with what they (Newcastle) had in the Championship, with what they could get and the fact they had Rafa at the club, you could see the progression straight away.

“You looked at the Championship and felt they would be choices for automatic promotion and it is proving to be that way – but not as easy as everybody expected.

“Those who know it well will tell you the Championship is harder to get out of than people think.

“As far as the job that Rafa has done…I think it is fantastic – no team has run away with the league and it was always going to be tough.

“There’s a depression when you get relegated, not just with the fans and with the team but the manager himself, the whole place is depressed.

“It’s trying to get them out of that, get them back up, he’s done a great job in doing that.”

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