John Barnes arrived at Newcastle United as austerity measure were being put in place.
Despite going into the Champions League for the first time and the extra cash this would bring, the Hall and Shepherd administration went backwards in terms of investing in the team.
First team squad players Ginola, Ferdinand, Beardsley, Clark, Kitson, Elliot left, whilst Dalglish recruited a trio of old timer free transfers, in the shape of John Barnes, Ian Rush and Stuart Pearce.
The lack of ambition proved disastrous, as Newcastle finished 13th after being 3rd, 6th, 2nd and 2nd in the four previous seasons, whilst the Champions League campaign bo,bed, despite starting with that 3-2 win over Barcelona, the NUFC team/squad was far too weak to cope and with a following fortunate draw in Kiev (two late Beresford goals) and three defeats they were quickly eliminated.
Moving forward 20 years and despite returning to the riches of the Premier League, Mike Ashley has shown the same lack of ambition, only an £11.5m net investment in the squad this summer, which John Barnes believes could have proved disastrous…if not for Rafa Benitez.
John Barnes says Rafa Benitez has to forget about more money and better players…for the time being.
Summing up the position Newcastle find themselves in, John Barnes declares ‘You can’t ask any manager to do better than how Rafa’s doing with the players he has’.
Then he holds out the carrot that we all know is there waiting if things fall right…’Rafa has galvanised them, and, with better players, he could do better’.
Barnes though says for now Rafa and his players have to forget all about any takeover and more money and better players, the former Liverpool player believing the Newcastle boss will keep his focus no matter what.
“The important thing is to be realistic about where you are and who you have…and Newcastle have what they have.
“Rather than looking forward and saying if they can get more money then they can get better players, I think Rafa will be focused on let’s worry about what we could do with more money and better players when we get more money and better players.
“You have to be realistic and think that this is what we have got at the moment.
“If it happens then it happens – but it may not happen.
“If it doesn’t happen, and people are getting excited, they will forget about winning these matches and playing these games.
“I’m sure that is what Rafa ins focused on – forget about the future and a takeover and there’s money to be spent (potentially in the future).
“If there is, it would be nice, but if there isn’t then you still have to be competitive.
“It’s a huge stadium. The potential’s there, but what happens now, in the financial climate we are in, is about money.
“Therefore, would you then say that Manchester City had the potential to do well? They did from a fans’ perspective.
“From a finance perspective, no they didn’t , then somebody from Abu Dhabi buys Manchester City. Now they can do what they do.
“Once upon a time, we talked about potential being the size of the stadium and the fanbase. Whereas now the potential is about getting someone to put a lot of money into the club and spend. Then you can be a successful club.
“Newcastle are a huge club, as we know, and the fans are fantastic. It’s a huge stadium.
“I understand the passion that the fans have.
“Newcastle is a fantastic city and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, for the fans more than anything I’d love to see them do well.
“The first season in the Premier League is really about cementing your place there.
“As the years go on, you look to see if you can push into the top six – It would be hard for Newcastle to break into the top four but cementing your place in the league is the most important thing.
“Everything has been positive because of the fan support for Rafa. It means that they’ve done well. Under different circumstances, and under a different manager, it could have gone the other way, but the fact that the Newcastle fans like him meant that they stayed with him and picked up.
“All you can ask any manager to do is maximise the potential of what he has at his disposal and he’s certainly maximised the potential of that team.
“There are Premier League teams that have got better players than them, but they work well as a team, particularly as they’ve got a lot of foreign players and you’d ask ‘are they up for a fight?’.
“Rafa has galvanised them, and, with better players, he could do better.
“You can’t ask any manager to do better than how Rafa’s doing with the players he has.”