Incredible risk taken by Rafa Benitez
It’s a bit peculiar this mind, everyone seems suddenly so happy…
Make no mistake, this is a crushing relegation we have just endured, especially if you’ve got my sort of brain. In my mind, our fate is ostensibly worse than Villa’s more severe demotion, anchored to the bottom all season and never at the races, a club in turmoil throughout. At least they had the chance to get used to it though, slowly slipping away as they did until the inevitable ‘R’ appeared next to their name in April with everyone else still fighting it out.
It will probably have felt like a bit of a relief when it was confirmed, with a season of lower league rebuilding potentially a good thing for a toxic club.
For Newcastle though, it wasn’t so clear cut. Above the relegation line and galvanised with hope with two games to go, failure to beat that sorry Villa side contributed to the fall.
This is where my brain is not a fun place to live, as I will probably continuously dwell on the fact that any single one of our sorry defeats this season could have saved us, if the players had just turned up as they did against Spurs when it was all too late. One performance in the McClaren era, even one more goal in the drawn Derby and we’d have been rebuilding for the top flight this summer.
It was not to be, but that hasn’t stopped a swell of utter delight amongst us in recent days as Rafa Benitez confirmed he will stay on as manager. This is colossal, probably the most important development of the Ashley era, as Rafa has gained full control of footballing matters and will prepare his own team for a promotion push and beyond.
I have real hope for a positive spin on relegation. We will be largely staffed next year by players who believe in the project and want to be at the club, any personal promoters or stepping stone seekers will surely ship out to a middling Premier League option.
The character this builds and the opportunity this may offer to less obvious personnel could galvanise a team that will find victories easier to come by in a lower division. The potential for a momentum-filled return to the Premier a la Keegan’s side of 93 is a scenario that many will be daring to dream of now.
However, there is also the potential of a nightmare scenario. It is essential that we, as supporters,
stay with Rafa and the team if things don’t click instantly in August. Everyone in the Championship will want to beat the side that will surely be installed as favourites and the many, many haters that have emerged to gloat at our Premier League demise will be willing Rafa to fail.
The headlines if Newcastle were to approach Christmas in mid-table would be as poisonous as they were plentiful.
This is how I’m amazed at Rafa’s level of commitment. The relegation was in no way attributable to him; he got the team playing and picking up points but it was too late to offset the McClaren damage.
Rafa could have walked into another job with his reputation unsullied by this relative blip. However, failure to get out of the Championship would be a catastrophic addition to an otherwise excellent CV, one that would take years to fully recover from.
That is what Rafael Benitez has given us. He has put his name on the line in recognition of what Newcastle United could be, and in doing so, seems to have summarily demolished the ridiculous system of hierarchy which has stifled the club throughout Ashley’s time in charge. It is an incredible risk to take and the gratitude toward the man should be boundless as he sets about his inevitable task.
I wonder how many people out there have experienced moments of doubt, as corners of national media again and again point to Newcastle fans with unrealistic expectations or fickle fits of favouritism.
When failed former managers point to the pressure of such an intense support as a crutch for their own shortcomings and well-paid shiny-arses nod sagely in agreement, there must be questioning in the ranks of the erstwhile Toon Army that “Maybe it is us?”
Realistically, no other club has underachieved so heavily in comparison to their relative wealth and exposure over the past 20 years. In that time: owners, managers and players have come and gone, and we are the only constant.
I wonder how far this myth would have endured had we continued our previous management model with a suitably underwhelming head coach at the helm? As we grew less relevant, the legend would have been repeated that Newcastle fans are toxic, the club is a basket case. Don’t touch it with a barge pole, look how they treated Pardew etc etc.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, someone believes in us. Someone with a standing in the game and a desire to take on a project. Someone willing to be the source of vitriol and ill-wishes from our inordinate amount of enemies because they could see through to the core of the club and understand that the rot wasn’t terminal, that the crowd were part of the cure, not the cause.
For the first time in years, we have an actual manager. Not just that, a manager that believes in us as fans, as a club, as a force in football. A manager with a track record that suggests we can look forward with optimism, despite our recent woes.
I hope so badly that it works out like the dream we are all cautiously sharing, but either way, I appreciate the man just being here in the first place. Thanks Rafa, now let’s do this thing.
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf
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