Unequivocal credit for Newcastle United has been about as hard to come by as the proverbial hen’s teeth.
Even when there is praise for Rafa Benitez and/or his team, it is usually given only with a big BUT on the end of it.
Usually this refers to the ‘unfair’ advantage Newcastle are claimed to have, Jaap Stam the latest to moan, claiming ‘Rafa Benitez has about 50 players…’.
However, after 35 matches and with fellow relegated clubs Norwich and Aston Villa, 24 and 31 points behind respectively, surely the time for Rafa to get some real credit must have arrived.
Newcastle faced their toughest two matches of the season only four days apart, Brighton refusing Newcastle’s appeal about the timing of the rescheduled match, leaving them with three long and difficult away trips (including Reading) within a week of each other.
Playing away at the second and third placed teams, Rafa’s Newcastle United didn’t concede a single goal in over three hours of open play, both Huddersfield and Brighton only scoring via a very soft penalty each.
What’s more, whilst Karl Darlow was in very good form and dealt with everything thrown at him, both promotion contenders were restricted almost exclusively to shots from long range, neither team managing to break open he visiting defence.
For all the talk of money spent, Rafa Benitez has built this season on a defence consisting of through the ranks Paul Dummett and the likes of Lascelles, Darlow, Yedlin and Clark, none of who cost more than £5m, whilst Vurnon Anita cost around £6.5m but has now been at the club for five seasons.
I suppose the bottom line is that deep down none of us really care what outsiders think and that the main thing is that we appreciate the lease of life and belief that Rafa Benitez has given the club and supporters.
A reminder of a few of Rafa’s achievements so far this season in the Championship:
Newcastle 76 points, (next best Brighton 71 and Huddersfield 65)
Newcastle 24 victories (next best Brighton 21 and Huddersfield 20)
Most goals scored
Newcastle 69 goals (next best Norwich 60 and Fulham 59)
Lowest goals conceded
Newcastle 29 (next best Brighton 31 and Derby 32)
Best goal difference
Newcastle +40 (next best Brighton +27 and Fulham +19)
(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])