As journalists and opposing fans desperately look for ways to diminish the job Rafa Benitez is doing at Newcastle United, there was a bit of a reality check on Tuesday night.

The perception of many is that Newcastle are top of the league simply because they have bought a lot of very expensive players, that any fool could mould into what is looking a title winning team.

The truth is a little bit more complicated and whilst Newcastle have got some players who cost a lot more than most Championship clubs could/would pay, in most cases it is wide of the mark.

Rafa Benitez saw a host of players demand moves and/or need shifting from the club last summer.

He had no choice but to rebuild a squad that could cope with a mad 46 game frantic Championship season, summed up by the demands of this crazy three game spell away at clubs in the top five.

Last night’s team v Reading was:

£3.5m Karl Darlow

Free Jesus Gamez

£3.5m Jamaal Lascelles

£5m Ciaran Clark

Free Paul Dummett

£10m Matt Ritchie

£13m Jonjo Shelvey

Free Jack Colback

£1.5m Yoan Gouffran

£1.5m Ayoze Perez

£3m Daryl Murphy

Leaving aside Shelvey and Ritchie, the other nine players cost only £18m, an average of £2m per player. (BTW – Yes I know £18m is still £18m but if you read about any Championship club buying a player for £2m you wouldn’t fall off your seat!)

The big advantage Newcastle United have this season, isn’t the amount of money that has or hasn’t been spent.

Obviously it helps…but it is the talent of Rafa Benitez that has moulded the title favourites, Aston Villa are the prime example (like many relegated teams before them) that simply having a lot of (relatively) expensive signings in your team makes no difference if you have the right man in charge.

Stats from BBC Sport:

Reading 0 Newcastle 0

Possession was Reading  70% Newcastle 30%

Total shots were  Reading 8 Newcastle 13

Shots on target were Reading 1 Newcastle 5

Corners were  Reading 7 Newcastle 5

Referee: Andy Davies

Newcastle United:

Darlow, Gamez, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Ritchie, Colback (Diame 88), Shelvey, Gouffran (Atsu 69), Perez, Murphy (Gayle 75)

Unused Subs

Elliot, Hanley, Mbemba, Anita

Crowd: 23,121 (3,704 Newcastle)

(To read the instant fan/writer reaction to this Reading match go HERE)

(To read what Jaap Stam had to say after the game go HERE)

(Jamaal Lascelles spoke after the match, read that HERE)

(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])

Travel Posters - Tyneside Prints


  • Geordiegiants

    This is why it will be hard to persuade Rafa to stay at the end of the season. As the saying goes “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sows ear”, or something like that anyway. I think he would love to stay as he is loved here, and he loves managing here, a few clubs he has managed he hasn’t felt the love, so he would stay given even half a chance. The problem he has, is these sort of signings are good enough to get us out of the championship, but not good enough to compete for trophys. Although a few like Clarke for instance have come good, we cannot carry on with this standard of signing, hoping they will raise their game a little just because it’s Newcastle, Rafa and the premier league.

  • Leazesl Ender

    The problem with Football fans and Pundits alike is they have no sense of proportion…. they go looking for ‘positives’ all of the time which I believe is quite unique to this particular sport.

    When Mike Ashley took over our club we had a higher income, we had the third largest Stadium in the Premiership and we didn’t need false optimism, but here we sit in the third tier of football (yes it is the 3rd) and the vocal fans are as happy as Larry because we are winning games with a squad valued at 60% of what it was nearly ten years ago!

    You lot call me mad because you perceive me as being negative all of the time, when all I’m doing is highlighting your shift in position….look at yourselves….. look at our club and how far it has sunk…

    ….but most of all get angry about it, instead of waving Ashleys flags and wondering where the noise has gone!

    How misguided for you to even think that a person of Rafa’s integrity will be happy to play along with ‘Newcastle the project’, He has said he will have discussions with the owner in May, and do you really think that he will be happy to sit in mid table watching his reputation sail down the river?

    Ashley will continue to play with his ‘yo-yo’…. it amuses him!

    • MichaelMaximusMoose

      a good summation of the factts

      • Leazesl Ender

        one ‘t’..

        • Jimblag23

          No for you it’s two, with an I in between.

      • Wor Monga

        …He’s thrown some cheese out just for you Mickey!!!

        • MichaelMaximusMoose

          Red Leicester

    • Lord

      True, response to beating Brighton away brought back memories of the away match to Arsenal where the Robson team won and went top of the Premiership (albeit briefly). Some contrast.

      Still, we are where we are and better to be winning than doing a Villa.

      • Geordiegiants

        I don’t think that is the point he is making. We are all fans fighting for the same cause, and want to see us winning, and not sinking like the vile. What he is saying is our fans are happy with mediocre standards now compared to times gone past. We were a big club, with big players, big fan base and a big stadium, we might of had a big wage bill, and some players were paid over the top, but that is football. We need to think big again as fans.

    • Wor Monga

      You’re basically saying that those fans who go to see the Toon play at SJP, not to mention those who have travelled to 3 different parts of the country, in a week, to give their support to the lads…are some kind of misguided fools because they don’t sit at home worrying about the past and how far the club has fallen since it last won the FA Cup in the 50’s…or the League in the 20’s…or come on here moaning every morning about the size of the stadium relative to some others…or even telling us of a future that only offers ‘mid-table mediocrity’

      …you don’t support football in any shape or form…you’re not even slightly interested in the game…you’re only interested in spewing out the same old pessimism, and outdated political stuff that’s died the death…in fact you’re just a grade ‘A’ Jeremiah, Leazes!!!

      • Leazesl Ender

        No I’m saying you are a fool…. and stop using my Clarksonian pause!

        • MichaelMaximusMoose

          Oh dear, you seem to upset him

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    Fatso`s Dream Team and that`s what you`ll get on promotion,
    anybody who thinks Mike will turn up with £50m plus to strengthen the squad is dreaming

    • Leazesl Ender

      Fifty will get us back to competing for the prized position of tenth place… it wont be enough to motivate players or staff and will certainly see Rafa move on to an ambitious club…..

      I’m surprised nobody has picked up on the flaw of the Charnley contract….. he’s only got a very low basic wage (relatively) which he boosts by keeping overheads low…. and he does that by dumping on the manager… its a sort of in built self destruction that Ashley has in place!

      Charnley is still there…. he doesn’t talk to the press, this is the world we live in now.

      • MichaelMaximusMoose

        that`s all Fatso wants mid table

        • Alreet

          To be honest with wat weve been through id take a few seasons of mid table but keeping rafa for the long haul.

          • MichaelMaximusMoose

            we wont get anywhere as long as the Pie Mans at Newcastle success isn`t on the agenda

          • Geordiegiants

            Rafa won’t be happy to settle for mid table for a couple of seasons. He is a proven winner.

      • hetonmag

        Before anything I totally dislike Ashley, Chumley and Carr, but you mention 50 mil will only get us 10th place, I think most fans would accept that in our first season back in the premiere. Remember Rafa says this is a project over the period of his contract, throwing money at a club never works unless you have a Russian or a Sheikh billionaire look how much Manure has spent the last 2 seasons and they are lying 6th in the league. For what it’s worth I don’t think Rafa will walk at the end of the season and the people that we dislike so much will give him what he wants.

        • Leazesl Ender

          Mate… the ‘project manager’ has no control over squad building!

          • hetonmag

            Sorry but you are only guessing, so while you are in the process of second guessing what do you think was in Rafa’s contract that took a few days to put together.
            .

    • Geordiegiants

      I don’t think £50 is any where near enough for mid table, when the like of Benteke are £30m plus.

      • MichaelMaximusMoose

        it isn`t that was the base figure & Ashley wont even come up with that, as far as players that need to leave i would say at least 10

    • I thikn we needen’t rush in buying too many players before we get rid off some.
      If we can offload 4-5 players(at least) I think we only need 2-3 quality additions in midfield and wide players. I’m perfectly fine with our forward line, even for the Prem League. I belive that both Gayle and Perez can be played in the same role with big lads Murphy/Mitro for other types of games.
      What’s mostly important is we keep Rafa.

      • Geordiegiants

        Rafa is good but he isn’t a magician. Mitro at the very very least needs replacing with a top goal scorer up front.
        We need 2 wingers 2 fullbacks and a creative midfeilder. I think we could get through a season with the c.b’s we have.

        • What you fail to see is buying too many players at once is never a good idea as it disbalances the team.
          We will replace/buy more players, but getting more than 4-5 for one transfer window is simply not working.

          • Geordiegiants

            It’s seems to be working perfectly for him this season. 11 I think last time.

      • Alreet

        I have to agree. We made a slightly inflated squad because of the amount of games in the season.

        Players like Selz. Gouffran. Possibly lazaar. Colback and maybe dummett can be shorn. We need 2 top drawer midfielders and a winger or 2. If we keep the likes of Atsu and the rest of the spine we just need to add to it.

        Its strange because last season we knew who needed to go and rafa obliged. Give the Gaffer the same respect and we could be set for a few years.

  • Wor Monga

    Well pointed out Ryan…seeing as it’s one of the most common whinges aimed at the Toon these days by the likes Jap Spam (aka Mr Ugly) to make it look like we’re at the top simply because of the money that Rafa’s spent…

    …12 players were brought into the squad last summer, but only Gayle (£10m) and Ritchie (£12m) we’re highly priced by championship standards…only a very special coach could realistically mould so many new faces into what is a quality top of the league side, in so short a time…taking into account very few of those who came here had much (if any) experience in the championship…

    …After those 3 great away games with 10 games left we can see that to get promotion…only Huddersfield (3rd) can realistically overtake us, and if they continue to collect points at the rate they’ve averaged over the season they will pick up something like 20pts (+/- 5%)…so 89 points (with our GD) will probably see us comfortably up!!!

    • Leazesl Ender

      Did you realise your name is an anagram of ‘Moron Wag’?

      • Jimblag23

        Well worked out Sleaze Lender.

    • MichaelMaximusMoose

      i think it will take 94 or 95 pts to win the league

      • Wor Monga

        …could well do, but I didn’t say anything about winning the league, did I…I said for automatic promotion!!!

  • toonterrier

    £18 million Hope the large one doesn’t read this or he’ll be having sleepless night but then he’ll phone Chumpley and tell him we have to sell at least half of them. Poor lad. Wont be long before we’re looking for loan players for next season as little money will be spent.

  • Ross

    9 of the starting 11 may have been cheap(ish) but no mention of the wages and the whole matchday squad was around 70m. Also you didn’t win????

  • MadMag83

    As ever, success and failure are rarely down to a single factor. We’re doing well this season due to several reasons, the larger budget Newcastle have compared to most in this division is a major advantage, let’s not deny that. But it’s more than that, it’s the fact we can attract top players, even in the Championship. Does anyone think Jesus Gamez would join say Norwich? (no offence to Norwich by the way) or that Shelvey would be playing Championship football, were it not for the fact Rafa is the manager and we have the money to pay those wages.

    Where I think Villa have lost out relative to Newcastle (considering their budget etc) is that Newcastle got Rafa in (admittedly too late to prevent relegation) towards the end of last season so he had an idea of which players he wanted to keep, sell, buy etc. Whereas Villa stuck with Remi Garde for too long, didn’t get Di Matteo in until after the last match, and had an ownership change. So whilst the money has been spent at Villa, the required stability hasn’t.