A lot of nonsense has been spoken this season about Rafa Benitez, some of it by Newcastle fans.

As many (normal) people have pointed out, pundits and supporters of other clubs were lining up last summer to say how difficult this division was, with it also supposedly being a handicap that we had a double La Liga and Champions League winning manager – the handicap being he had never managed in the Championship.

As though the English second tier was some strange mysterious place with its own special extreme challenges, unlike the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, or even the Spanish second tier, where Rafa Benitez has plenty of experience of in his earlier managerial career.

When Newcastle lost their first two Championship matches (Fuham away, Huddersfield home) the media/other fans were loving it, the Championship finding Rafa and Newcastle out after we thought we’d walk it (even though none of us normal people ever said this).

A run of 13 wins and only 1 defeat in the next 15 Championship games soon put them back in their box but the agenda simply then changed.

Now it was…obviously Newcastle were always going to walk this division, anything less than that would be a disgrace etc etc.

The reality of course was always going to be something in between the two scenarios outlined above.

With 85 points after 43 matches, any club in the Championship would be happy with that when setting off in August.

Arguably, how you get there is a bit immaterial, after 43 games and eight months, you are where you deserve to be.

After looking as though they were sure to be champions, the fact that Newcastle have fallen below that (all but certain) has led to so many over the top comments.

The players, the club, Rafa Benitez – all held up for ridicule…simply because it looks like NUFC will ‘only’ finish as runners-up.

Yes it is disappointing that results and performances have fallen away but that disappointment is a totally different animal to being in supposed despair because it will be (almost certain) promotion in second, rather than first, place.

There are very real worries for Newcastle fans but they aren’t to do with possible failure to get promotion, not that it is taken for granted etc etc but one win from three games is all that is probably, or even possibly nothing if Huddersfield only get two wins and a draw (or worse) from their last four games.

The justified concerns are that Newcastle will need far far more if/when stepping up into the Premier League than it possibly looked back in October/November when Championship records being broken by Dwight Gayle and the rest of the team, was all the talk on the back of that 13 wins and only 1 defeat in 15 matches.

The end of this season is one where injuries certainly haven’t helped and doing without key players such as Hayden, Clark and Gayle has meant the Manager having to even more shuffle the pack of the mainly average players that populate Newcastle’s squad.

Yes, arguably Rafa’s tactics may not have helped at times but nobody was saying that back in the Autumn, when the same tactics looked to be capable of producing a record breaking season.

As I say, most of the Newcastle players are average and no amount of tactics or team changing will make a massive difference, especially when some of them also appear to be not showing the perfect attitude as they believed they were coasting to promotion.

Only two wins in eight Championship matches isn’t the way Newcastle should be finishing the season and only seven goals in those eight games (only scored two goals in one of them) points to a malaise that has taken over the team/squad, not just bad luck.

Maybe we are just used to 38 game seasons…

(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])

  • GToon

    My biggest concern is that during this season Rafa wanted the backing of Cashley in January and was given nothing. A move for Townsend then would have been a real statement of intent that he believed in Rafa and wanted to build for the future. Instead, as per usual he gambled and in my opinion made Rafa look like a fool on the last day of the transfer window, when Rafa had publicly stated he wanted players and we all knew who he meant.
    Fast forward a few months and we get a statement to go with the accounts that basically says how grateful we should be to “Mike” and how we are going to be even more careful in future. So that’s the summer transfer window written off as well is it? When you add into that a team that relies heavily on three or four players you have a recipe for sceptisism despite our position or the managers ability.
    We might be going up and we might have a good manager but as another reader laughingly put the other day “we should take a look at the clubs accounts” because that’s the first thing Cashley will look at in May. And if we are promoted then Rafa won’t have such a strong hand as I’m sure in the back of Cashleys mind he’ll be thinking “I don’t need you now as we are back on the gravy train so I can get somebody cheaper and somebody who says yes a bit more”. I hope I’m wrong on every count.

    • Alan Baker

      Maybe Ashley was cautious that Rafa had already spent millions on Hanley, Lazar, Murphy, Gamez who haven’t been deemed good enough to play regularly and diame or Atsu who cost a lot but are poor when they do play? What’s the motivation to then spend more on players to play instead of the ones who already cost you millions only months earlier?

      • Keeganontherebound

        Rafa has done OK in the transfer market. Clark, Hayden, Gayle, Ritchie all pick themselves when fit. Murphy was bought as a back-up striker and has done well when picked. More or less the same with Hanley and Rafa probably knew he was paying over the odds for decent back up. Who would have predicted Diame flopping after his performances last season? All managers sign players who don’t work out…I certainly know whose judgement I’d trust if it came to a choice between Rafa and Mike and his minions. It’s their transfer policy that landed us in the championship in the first place.

        • Exactly, I don’t see a bad transfer. We got decent playes and backups, that’s it. Rafa wanted Clark or Hanley to step up and Clark did. Hayden proved without a doubt he’s the engine we were looking for(can really tell when Colback is playing in his position or Anita). Gayle was a masterstroke and we wouldn’t be here if not for his 22 goals.
          In the end I only wish Lazaar and Mitrovic were given a few more games, but really haven’t been consistent on the pitch, so I can live with it. Diame was excellent in the first half of the season, sadly maybe he was told he won’t be part of the squad next season and same was told to Gouff(should have known it) and Atsu, and that’s why their form dipped.

          • Street78

            Diame was excellent in the 1st half of the season?

      • GToon

        Hanley was back up and replaced Taylor. Lazar needs to adapt like Enrique did. Murphy has done well I think and has got us important goals. Gamez was unlucky as he got injured as soon as he got his chance. Atsu is on loan and is one for the future if we buy him. Diame is perhaps the only player I’d say hasn’t given us much of a return but perhaps his presence in the team is more important than us fans understand. Whatever our views are it is a fact that Rafa wanted another player or two and Cashley said no. That doesn’t bode well for the future.

    • Damon Horner

      Selling club, buying club, player and agents, I don’t know why people are bothered by a transfer that in all but confirmation didn’t impact whether we won promotion or not. There is no guarantee Townsend would even have been a good performer, all just assumptions.
      Frankly I’m more bothered about the summer than last winter.

      • GToon

        Townsend played for us and was one of our best players when we went down so I’m basing my assumption on that.

      • Pelican

        “Frankly I’m more bothered about the summer than last winter.” You are missing the point, your opinion is inconsequential, it is the opinion of Benitez that matters.

        • Damon Horner

          Thanks for keeping me right mate. I thought I had the decisive input for a second there.

          Not think the fact the fans opinion being inconsequential is why I don’t have a feeling towards the last window while others are panicking?

          What will happen, happens, this is why I am more bothered about the summer because then we will see the real consequences if any.

          • Pelican

            Every opinion is as valid as another at fan level, but if we want to keep Benitez, he is going to need his opinion backed. How much were fans looking forward to Benitez coming in, and demanding what he needs for his squad. Strange now that some fans are happy enough to wait until the summer, contrary to what Benitez believed.

          • Damon Horner

            That’s it though, who hasn’t backed his opinion? any evidence to support the answer to that?
            He needs to improve his squad for the Premier League, that’s clear, opinion is divided whether he needed to in Jan or just wanted to but nobody clearly knows what happened in January and any fallout will be known in the summer, I trust Rafa 100% but any debate about January is speculation until then, that’s my only point really.

          • Pelican

            Plenty of fans, including an opinion you just made above, does not support Benitez’s view that the squad needed added to in the last window. We are in 2nd place on very fine margins.

            Being more bothered about the summer, when Benitez was more concerned with the winter window, is not supportive of his views. We could have very easily lost to Brighton and Huddersfield after being dominated. We are very lucky to have a summer window to even think about.

  • Hughie_Gallacher

    The real question is in your penultimate paragraph: why has Newcastle’s form suddenly collapsed nearing the end of the season? Is it pressure, have they got their flip-flops on, or is the team selection wrong? Some fans apparently believe we don’t have the right to ask such questions.

    • Damon Horner

      you have the right but is there any answer you’d consider acceptable?

      • Hughie_Gallacher

        Yes, but we would never receive such an answer.

  • Rich Lawson

    I want to see entertaining football as well as wins,but regardless of that if Rafa takes us up in any position he has done his job and long may he continue to do !

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    the players form has gone because they aren`t good enough to sustain it, the likes of Gouffran, Anita, Colback, Lascelles & a few others
    they can string a good set of games together but sooner or later it dips at an alarming rate
    that`s why not one of them would even be on the bench of a premiership side
    they`ll get us up Ok, but the task in front of Rafa in the premiership is enormous

    • Lascelles is still young and lacks experience, he might get better, for the rest it can only get worse. Truth be told we still have too much deadwood, and I would have loved to see a few more U23 faces given a go, buy sadly Rafa will always choose experience and he could be right.

  • Desree

    We don’t score enough and concede silly goals. We are creating chances but don’t put them away. The team is low on confidence, I doubt Rafa is coaching the team to play this badly. They just don’t have the skill to control games.

    • And winning mentality, too many people there just for the check at the end of the week. That’s what’s really wrong. If we had two more players like Ritchie we’d be having 110 points + by now, since it was actually him and Gayle that won us most games.

  • SH.ER

    You spoiled my day with your ideas …..
    our players are too average for you to turn up at home? is this how you really see it? you have some issues then !!
    18 points dropped at home, should be between 98 & 102 points by now if it wasn’t for the change in tactics in the second half of the season with this cautious football

    You will not fool me when you say the tactics has not changed, I loved the 1st half of the season, but then game after game I started to see something i did not like at all from Benitez!! & that is???? giving the other motherf**** teams in this division far far too much respect
    Look at the Fulham game at SJP & you’ll realize what i said