Ian Wright has chosen Rafa Benitez as his ‘manager of the weekend’.
From Rafa’s arrival seven weeks ago there were instant encouraging signs, more threat going forward, improved organisation and more committed players buying into the new manager.
However, improvement in results wasn’t instant and it is only these last couple of weeks when tangible proof can be seen.
Ian Wright now says that after eight points from the last four matches ‘survival looks a very real prospect for Newcastle’.
As Alan Shearer commented at the weekend, Wright also wonders if Mike Ashley waited far too long before changing managers and that time will be the factor that thwarts Rafa Benitez in the final analysis.
Ian Wright says that Newcastle staying up would be ‘even more important’ that Liverpool’s comeback in the Champions League final under Benitez.
As for unexpected stars, Wright picked out Karl Darlow’s penalty save from Yohan Cabaye as his ‘moment of the week’.
The former Arsenal striker saying that if Newcastle are in the Premier League next season, it will be Darlow who everybody remembers with that (hopefully!) pivotal save.
Ian Wright writing in The Sun:
Manager of the weekend = Rafa Benitez
All of a sudden survival looks a very real prospect for Newcastle — and you have to take your hat off to Rafa Benitez for that.
Saturday’s priceless win over Crystal Palace hauled them out of the bottom three for the first time since February, and made it eight points from the last four games.
Or, to put it another way, nearly a quarter of the points they’ve managed all season in just over two weeks. Talk about making your mark — the Spaniard had certainly done that since arriving in mid-March.
The Toon have looked a totally different team since Benitez got hold of them, and the fans are just praying they didn’t wait too long before giving him a call.
I know they’re not out of the woods yet and Sunderland have a game in hand, but with Villa next up, you wouldn’t back against Rafa completing a comeback even more important than THAT one in Istanbul with Liverpool.
Moment of the weekend – Karl Darlow
Loads of contenders this week… not least Kasper Schmeichel’s unbelievable stop at Old Trafford and Jermain Defoe’s last minute penalty for Sunderland.
And you cannot overestimate how vital Andros Townsend’s stunning free kick against Crystal Palace could prove come the end of the season.
But as brilliant as that was, I just edge towards Townsend’s Newcastle team-mate Karl Darlow for making sure Townsend’s goal was a winning one.
If Yohan Cabaye had scored his penalty, the Toon would still be in the bottom three and staring at relegation. As it is, Darlow’s super save made it a day for celebrations.
A moment to remember for any keeper, let alone a third choice one, only in the side because of injuries, yet suddenly the name all Toon fans will remember if they do stay up.