Rafa Benitez, having been in management for over thirty years and won thirteen major honours to date, is no fool.
He has been there, seen it all and emerged as a champion at many different levels – working within many different management structures with very different personality types.
It is fascinating to read the views of Newcastle United fans every day – from wide-eyed optimism to chronic negativity, the division of opinion has never been wider than it is today.
Friday’s first pre-season friendly against Hearts, offered up a brief glimpse of possible things to come.
Florian Lejeune showed flashes of class as an imposing back line enforcer, whilst Siem De Jong had us wishing he had the fitness to go along with his undeniable talents. As an attacking force spearheaded by Dwight Gayle, we looked good, great even – at times.
With pace and intent, we swept aside the opposition in the first half and looked a team capable of inflicting real damage on our day. This was only a friendly, our first one, but there are signs that Rafa will provide a team with heart and fight, a team with a decent chance of staying up to build on next season.
It now looks like we will sign Jacob Murphy from Norwich this week. He certainly looks a good prospect and a player who will add pace and vision to our flanks. But more importantly he will add competition to the ranks, something that Rafa demands and understands will keep the squad focussed and motivated throughout the season.
There certainly does seem to be a fixation with pacey wingers this transfer window, players who can explode on the counter attack and whip in the crosses for a target man in front of goal.
So, this is where I am going to lay my (miniscule) reputation on the line.
I believe that we will quite possibly sign Bas Dost very late in the window, after all the early transfer season madness and the fees settle down a bit. This would potentially explain why we are haggling for every single pound on the positions that need to be filled at this early stage, saving anything we can to make the big hit when the time is right!
Transfers are taking an age to complete right now but believe you me, other than being incredibly infuriating, that can only be a good thing. Rafa understands that past (Newcastle United) transfer errors have had a serious impact on his early tenure. He is intent on carrying out meticulous due diligence with regards to character and spirit alongside the obvious physical and tactical requirements of a player.
Every pre-season friendly will reveal a little more about Rafa’s plans for the forthcoming season and I for one cannot wait for the first game to arrive.
Here’s a thought.
When we smashed Spurs 5-1 in our last Premier league game at St James Park, it was Georginio Wijnaldum who stole the show and was crowned man of the match.
Is our squad currently in a better or worse position than that amazing day, when Rafa Benitez inspired the troops to play far beyond their collective abilities?
Are Matt Ritchie, Rolando Aarons or Christian Atsu capable of filling the Liverpool Dutchman’s boots?
Are we made of sterner stuff following a season of battle in the Championship and another year of Benitez under our players skin?
I, Dom Morgan, choose to be optimistic about the forthcoming season. It is not through enlightenment or blind trust, or anything other than choosing to see the glass as half full for the sake of my dwindling sanity. In Benitez, and Rafa Benitez only, I trust. Viva la Rafulation!
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