No normal person thinks Rafa Benitez is doing a bad job but…
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])
If you would like to feature on The Mag, submit your article to [email protected]