An emotional day on Friday for all Newcastle fans but the overwhelming feeling must surely have been one of relief.
Conditioned to expect the worst under Mike Ashley, a chaotic week of speculation surrounding a potential change of Head Coach/Manager looked to be ending with a nightmare scenario. A demoralised coaching and playing staff heading into a key week against Leicester and Sunderland with what appeared to be death by a thousand self-inflicted wounds.
Continuing with Steve McClaren looked to be a certain date with doom, no matter how much he protested that everything would magically come good – his message having changed little throughout a season-long relegation battle.
Rafa Benitez has offered hope; a change of direction, tactics and potentially team selection. No guarantees of course that this will translate into points but certainly the ‘belief’ of the team should be transformed.
The fact that things were allowed to slide for so long without any dynamic action to reverse the magnetic pull of the Championship…is baffling in the extreme, well anywhere apart from at Newcastle that is.
Even Mike Ashley has though realised that this isn’t a fire drill, the warning bells that were ringing in both his head and those of the fans, had to be addressed.
His response in taking on Rafa Benitez is a seismic shift, not just for this relegation battle but also the long-term future of the club.
It is all a bit daunting when you think of exactly how much is resting on these remaining 10 games…and by association, on those Newcastle players who will have to put the necessary points on the board.
It is widely reported that the Rafa Benitez three year contract includes a clause which allows him to jump ship if Newcastle end up in the Championship.
If United are still a Premier League club in August then the future starts to look very enticing, as I don’t think anybody believes that Benitez would have taken the job without assurances of major changes in how the club is run, with power once again sensibly restored in (what should be) the main man at any club – the Manager.
The alternative of course is the ‘R’ word. If the very worst happened then very hard to see Rafa sticking around when he would have plenty of other offers in the summer to consider. The knock-on effect of this could/would be Mike Ashley very likely taking drastic action, quite possibly involving an even tighter control over team affairs/transfer and savage cost cutting to match Championship income.
As recently as Friday morning it was very hard to see the prospect of a future with both Mike Ashley and the fans pulling in the same direction, even if for very different motivations.
That carrot though is potentially there BUT only if Newcastle United are still a Premier League club on Monday 16 May.