Can Rafa Benitez do a Chris Hughton…and then a Kevin Keegan?
Around twenty four years ago, Newcastle United were on the brink of being relegated to the third tier of English football for the very first time in their history.
However, the club was able to overcome this looming disaster by sacking the then manager and appointing Kevin Keegan, a former player who was a fan favourite of the club.
Kevin Keegan was able to turn things around in a dramatic way. He led the team to Premier league promotion the following year and then went on to finish in an impressive third position, thereby qualifying the team for European competition.
The rest as they say is history as Keegan went on to transform Newcastle United to a title challenging side, coming close on two occasions before Keegan decided to quit the club due to personal reasons.
Newcastle were once again on the brink seven years ago, with uncertainty about what the future would hold after relegation to the Championship in the 2008/2009 Premier League season.
The club decided to take the risk with caretaker manager Chris Hughton to be in charge of the first team’s push for promotion.
Hughton, to the surprise of many, cruised through the Championship in fine style. He not only got the team promoted at the first time of asking, he and his team had the highest points and goal scored tally in the entire English Leagues.
Once the team got promotion to the English Premier league , they went on to win their first match against Aston Villa 6-0, defeated The Mackems 5-1 in the Tyne-Wear derby and also beat Arsenal 1-0 (away) for the first time in five years. The team was sitting comfortably in 12th position, but for reasons known only to the board, Chris Hughton got sacked, which led to the appointment of Alan Pardew.
Pardew’s first full season in charge was the 2011-2012 Premier league season. It was a very successful season with Newcastle United finishing in 5th position, which was Newcastle’s best league finish since Sir Bobby’s time. Pardew won both the League Managers Association and Premier League manager of the season award. He was the first English Manager to win both awards in the same year.
The following season was unsuccessful as the club only signed one senior player going into the new season. The club was not able to recover from this poor decision by the board’s refusal to invest in quality players. This led the club to constantly find themselves battling relegation season after season to the distaste of the fans.
Alan Pardew finally left the club in the January of 2015, due to the board’s lack of assurance on transfers. John Carver took over till the end of the season and ‘helped’ the club avoid relegation.
In the 2015/2016 season, the inevitable occurred. The club finally got relegated once again for the second time in seven years under the ownership of Mike Ashley. Steve McClaren was in charge for the majority of the season but was unable to get the club going. With ten games left Rafa Benitez was appointed to save the club from relegation, he was however unable to do so despite going unbeaten in six of the last 10 matches including an excellent 5-1 victory over Tottenham at st. James Park.
Once again, with the club on the brink of repeating the same thing that occurred in the 199/1992 season, the board have promised to change their old ways and listen to the fans for the first time under the ownership of Mike Ashley. They have given Rafa Benitez full charge of all footballing activities including transfers, they have also reduced the prices of tickets by 10% as a form of apology to the fans.
Let’s hope this serves as the beginning of a new era, an era where once promotion is guaranteed, we can go on as a club to challenge the top clubs once again, for the top four positions in the league and even…who knows.
Rafa Benitez could take us one step better than Kevin Keegan did in the days of the Entertainers.
I’m sure we’ll love it, we’ll all love it, when we do that.
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