Rafa Benitez is doing something only Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson have achieved at Newcastle before him – he’s creating a product that we all want to buy.
It has the feel of a project that can grow and turn into something special and memorable. Fans are pinching themselves. We’ve managed to get our club back against all the odds.
I was in the ticket office the other day and it was summed up by a chat with the lad on the counter who was serving me. Tickets for home games were selling like hot cakes, he said. I’m actually starting to worry that we reach the point where promotion can be secured and I may not be able to actually get in and see it. Let’s all hope that moment arrives next year.
Benitez is what we’ve been waiting for since that infamous day in September 2004 when Shepherd sacked Robson. Here is a manager with an actual philosophy on how the game should be played, allied with the coaching credentials and gravitas to make players take notice and do their jobs properly.
I’ll readily admit that somewhat foolishly I allowed myself to worry after Fulham and Huddersfield that Rafa didn’t get what life in this division was all about. How wrong I’ve been ever since.
The second goal at Leeds was pure Tiki-taka, even if it was in a second tier game. That’s the football I love to see. Good movement, clean passing, then the neat finishing. Yes, do the rough stuff when needed, the set-pieces, but technique is just as important. The players at our club have been starved of quality coaching and they’re now making up for lost time.
Plenty in the locker
What struck me about the team sheet at Elland Road was the strength of that NUFC bench. All of them internationals (Hayden U21s). All of them pretty decent players, especially under this regime.
What encourages me is that we have a clutch of players chomping at the bit to get on and make their mark. That can only bode well for what is to come. If the lads can keep this momentum going then other below may slip up. If that happens the gap will only widen.
The three stooges – Pardew, Sissoko and Townsend
Don’t you just love being proved right? Here are three characters who have all left Gallowgate and have struggled.
In Pardew’s case the overwhelming majority wanted him gone, but we’ve had many months of Palace fans and pundits calling us out for ‘hounding’ Pards. Well, he currently has the worst record in English professional football and the fans down there are calling for his head. It was bound to happen.
Knowing Pardew he’ll wriggle out by winning a couple then going on another shocking run. I’m still having nightmares about the derby games he lost up here.
Mr Sissoko is at a club at the right end of the Premier League. There is no doubt Spurs are well funded and pretty well run – but Moussa has been mere bit part actor so thus far. Highlights have included a woeful miss on an open goal, perennial bench warming and a violent conduct rap. That £30m really was a good fee. Spurs will be paying off that Sissoko cash long after they’ve hawked him back to a French side.
Andros Townsend left for a ‘footballing reason’. He wanted his England place.
At the time I understood it, but he’s gone on to put in a string of terrible displays and is facing a second relegation unless he gets his finger out, and he’s had the fans on his back. It’s funny how things work out, innit Andros.
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