I must admit that I had forgotten all about Newcastle United being so strongly linked with Rafa Benitez previously.
In the aftermath of near relegation in May 2013 when Newcastle only confirmed they were safe in the final away match of the season (winning at QPR), Newcastle were rumoured to be set to fire Alan Pardew and recruit Rafa Benitez.
There were even claims that Rafa had been approached and he was allegedly looking for a club that had money to spend and/or a ‘two or three year project’.
This was in the aftermath of a six month temporary spell as ‘interim manager’ at Chelsea where he won the Europa League and got them into the group stages of the Champions League by finishing third, despite a sustained hate campaign from Chelsea supporters.
Of course Mike Ashley didn’t act then, with Premier League football/cash assured for at least one more season he persevered with yes man Alan Pardew and Rafa Benitez went off to Napoli.
So what might have been?
Imagine if Ashley had acted in May 2013 and brought in Rafa Benitez and given him full control, along with the authority to spend the £110m+ that has been largely wasted in these past two seasons?
This article below by one of our writers, Paul Dixon, was published in May 2013 and sums up very nicely the feeling at the time, plus makes us all think of what might have been if Rafa Benitez had been given the job three years ago….
Paul Dixon writing in May 2013:
Rafa Benitez, Alan Pardew or Dennis Wise…
‘There we go then, after 9 months of apathy, joy, frustration, rage and bewilderment, the club with the most erratic gestation period known outside pregnancy, sends us for our 3 month recuperation period, no wiser as to the status of the club than we were last August.
We have good players in there, we also have makeweights, to put it diplomatically.
The position of the manager is the most intriguing though, however, trying to second guess Ashley makes Churchill’s description of 1940s Russia as a ‘riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma’, seem like a Sun crossword.
Ashley made no bones about his intentions when buying out Freddy and his mates, we were a vehicle for selling tracksuits and trainers, fair enough, we knew were we stood.
It is also to the club’s benefit that it is his own money at stake and not that of shareholders or rapacious banks. However, he must balance the need to, well, balance the books for the ‘fair play’ rules, to progress the team to his aspired aim of challenging the top 4. This will either cost quite an investment, or employing a more proven manager. Are we to be merely a fund raising operation to repay his loans, or genuine players in the Premiership game? Speculate to accumulate with the added TV exposure of regular European games?
Doubtless you have heard the rumours of Benitez being approached and doubtless the reaction of many of you will be the same as mine, in that we have more chance of tempting Ferguson out of retirement. Why would he need to come here?
However, a recent press conference by him and stories attributed to ‘sources close to’, suggest that it isn’t the improbability I first thought. He would consider either a club well minted, or one with a ‘2 to 3 year project’, which certainly puts us in the frame. For myself I’d give the bloke a piggyback up here, he would be an excellent appointment.
That said, the negative aspect creeps in. Would he be prepared to be totally subservient to Ashley and Llambias? Precedent suggests not, he likes autonomy.
There are clearly elements of the squad not totally in trusting of Pardew’s methods, we are tactically naïve, technically lacking in some areas and have the overall lightning pace in the squad of tectonic plates. I confess to realising that Pardew is probably not going to get any better than this and considering he was hired to progress us, then logic dictates that having done so, he passes the baton on when his race is run.
We all fear though, what dread names of managerial dole bound Londoners lurk in Ashley’s phone book?
Dave Bassett? Terry Venables? Dennis Wise???
As ever at the end of a season, we always say this next transfer window is the most important in the history of the club, and whilst this summer isn’t as potentially cataclysmic as the relegation season of a few years ago, there are chances to progress.
Imagine the players a manager of the standing of Benitez could attract. So Ashley has a chance to stick or twist, stick and float around mid-table morphing into a feeder club for those with more ambition, or twist and become the club that exploits that policy in other teams.
If it is to be ‘stick’, then tell your manager to stop whining about the Europa League and next season stop treating the domestic Cups like a forfeit, rather than an opportunity.
If it is to be ‘twist’, then imagine your products potentially being advertised in Madrid rather than ‘Backofbeyondistan’, Munich rather than a welfare park in a dodgy area of Athens.
I suspect we’re in for more of the same but until my doctor tells me otherwise, I’ll keep turning up and playing emotional Roulette, and pray my suffering heart lasts longer than our latest 5 year plan.