Mike Ashley is responsible for Newcastle United’s failings over the past decade. His decisions and lack of ambition in a one-club city averaging a home attendance of 52,000 have seen United regress to the lows of the end of the Division 1 era, just before the Premier League rebranding and Sir John Hall assuming control of the club.

We are where we are because of Mike Ashley. This is irrefutable. And not the point of this article.

Newcastle United is lucky to have a manager of the calibre of Rafa Benitez.

As the only manager to win all three current European trophies and the World Club Cup, he should never have had to manage in the English Championship. The fans are firmly behind him and always have been: they trust his judgment and acknowledge the limitations imposed by an incompetent owner that promised him every penny of what was generated after a season in which the club made a net transfer income of £40m. Rafa Benitez is making the best of the crooked hand he’s been dealt. But is he really, though?

There wasn’t much more Rafa could have done to prevent the club from relegation the season he took over. Nobody could blame him for that. Much was then shed in wages from a bloated squad and with immediate promotion imperative, replacements were required. Even so, paying the following figures during a Championship campaign for a list of players who weren’t superior to those remaining after relegation seemed short-sighted folly at a club run by an owner notorious for not spending extravagantly, or even as necessary:

Daryl Murphy – £3m

Achraaf Lazaar – £3m

Mohamed Diame – £4m

Grant Hanley – £5m

Matt Ritchie – £12m

Dwight Gayle – £10m

Matz Sels – £5m

Ritchie and Gayle excelled in the Championship, playing their part to ensure the division title was secured on the last day of the season. For a pair who cost £22m, they did exactly as expected in the second tier. As for the others in that list, well, they’re barely worth mentioning.

And so to this season: £4.5m for Javier Manquillo. Mr Mediocre. Is he better than Paul Dummett, who seems to get better with every game he doesn’t play for the club, or Jesus Gamez, who’s performed well whenever called upon, or even Massadio Haidara, promising many years ago on the odd occasions he was picked and wasn’t injured?

How about that £12m for Jacob Murphy? Is he superior to Matt Ritchie, Christian Atsu, or Rolando Aarons? Does he add another dimension? Well, no, he’s a young lad and has much to learn, but to survive the Premier League every squad should be rotated because of injury or loss of form.

Right now, Newcastle United sit bottom of the Premier League Form Table with five losses in six matches, including home defeats to Bournemouth and Watford. Irrespective of formation, the same cagey system is perpetually deployed: sit deep and hope to conjure something on the counter or from a set-piece, even when at home, or when losing. Huge gaps between defence and midfield and midfield and forwards, ensure that long balls abound, often to a 5’8” striker, and the other team inevitably controls possession throughout the game.

Really, if we’re being objective, it’s the same negative mentality as that of Benitez’s predecessors, except we sometimes take the lead and experience hope and joy before the frustration and resignation settles in and the other team wins.

Rather than rotating the squad and offering opportunities to those who haven’t been involved in recent failings, Benitez continues using the same players, some switching between the bench and the starting line-up depending on mistakes made, or how ineffective they’ve been in the previous fixture.

Of course, Rafa Benitez is at the training ground each day and sees and knows things about the squad that no fan ever will, but if the team more or less picks itself because those left out are clearly incompetent, it doesn’t matter whether Benitez or McClaren or Carver or Pardew is the manager.

But we all know this isn’t true, and that, as with players, some managers are better than others. Or simply have the skills conducive to maximising limited resources. For example, the manager of Saturday’s victorious opponents was able to secure a fourth-placed finish and European qualification for a previously unfashionable mid-table side (Nice) by building a team around Hatem Ben Arfa the season after the supremely gifted Frenchman was written off by such managerial heavyweights as Steve Bruce, John Carver and Alan Pardew.

Some managers can even eke out six international goals in nine appearances from a forward frozen out of his club side for the best part of two seasons, thus ensuring World Cup qualification for their nation; this from a striker usurped at club level by players who will never get anywhere near their national teams because of superior compatriots.

Meanwhile, a player who couldn’t get into the starting line-up for Scotland, a country who didn’t qualify for the World Cup, continues to start every game and underperform for the club bottom of the Premier League Form Table. Would Matt Ritchie still be picked if he didn’t take corners and free kicks?

Perhaps if Benitez started Jonjo Shelvey, a man many deemed unlucky to miss out on being chosen for the last England squad, the set-piece conundrum would have an obvious solution. Can Newcastle United really afford to leave a player as incisive as Shelvey on the bench, asks the entire British football world? Not given their recent results.

And dropping Ritchie could allow Rolando Aarons a chance to show that he’s better than Ritchie, Atsu, and Murphy, that all the promise he’s shown between injuries can be developed and realised, and that actually, he’s the most exciting player in a mediocre squad battling relegation, capable of creating a scoring opportunity or at the very least dragging the team forward ten or twenty yards towards the opposition’s goal. Or not. But in a losing team devoid of ability and inspiration, he deserves an opportunity longer than twenty minutes at the end of a game that’s already been decided to show what he’s capable of.

As does forgotten talent Massaido Haidara, especially considering this season’s problems at the left-back position. Whether or not you agree that Benitez has to be less conservative and stop playing his underperforming favourites instead of others with different qualities, something needs to change to stop the club from sliding back into the Championship.

Despite all the takeover talk, it’s possible that United will remain under Ashley’s control for the rest of the season and that in January sufficient funds won’t be released for better personnel, which means that Benitez will have to somehow find a formula with the current squad.

At least then we’ll discover whether those fringe players are any good. Or maybe we won’t. Perhaps Benitez will continue using the same core currently incapable of getting results, substituting attacking midfielders for defensive midfielders and bringing on right-backs for centre-midfielders when we’re losing.

It’s been said that repeating the same mistakes in the hope of producing different results is the very definition of insanity.

Well, Rafa doesn’t seem like a madman to me, just stubborn, defensive, and unadventurous. But then maybe he has a grand plan and is adhering to it aggressively. I mean, he did leave Valencia because of the owner’s transfer policy. Perhaps he’s learned from that and is now trying a different tactic: By performing so badly, he’s driving down the club’s value by the game in the hope of inducing a change in ownership. Come January, if United are in the bottom three, Amanda Stavely might well be able to meet Mike Ashley’s revised valuation.

What other reason could there possibly be for a manager with Rafa Benitez’s CV to send out essentially the same side to play the same way and lose every single week in a frankly mediocre league, outside of the top six clubs?

Maybe the messiah works in mysterious ways, ways far beyond the comprehension of mere mortals like you and me.

Right now though, it’s hard not to see Rafa Benitez in the same dim light as Fabio Capello managing the England team: an undeniably formerly brilliant manager whose previous employment was at Real Madrid, his best work long behind him, struggling with a hostile work environment that falls short of his lofty expectations, stubbornly trying to inflict an inflexible vision upon inadequate players and failing with a sense of inevitability that is all too familiar to the Newcastle United faithful.

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  • anyobrien

    We looked slick and organised earlier in the season I don’t understand what’s happened… Has the take over derailed things?
    The loss of lascells?
    I don’t know and tbh I’m past caring it’s tedious, boring and draining scrapping around every bloody season….. I wish I could just walk away from the club but after 45 years it’s hard.

    • Natturner26

      Correct. It is bizarre how we went from looking like we would definitely stay up to looking like we will definitely go down. Can’t blame Ashley for that.

      • anyobrien

        You can to a point.. No cover for injuries.?

        • Natturner26

          For CB? That is one position we are well stocked in. Looking at the squad the only real gap in cover I see is at #10 where we have Ayoze only. LB too perhaps but that’s on Rafa given the amount of fullbacks he has already bought.

  • toonterrier

    I’d like to think I am wrong but with Rafa’s recent results, team selection and tactics is he trying to get the sack rather than hand over the £5 million get out clause. We know he’s a great manager but yesterdays game which we were expecting to win to leave Lascelles, Shelvey and Mitro on the bench makes you think there’s something not right. When you look where we were after the first few weeks of the season and our present position something isn’t right.

    • Danimal

      We had a kind run of fixtures early on and built some confidence on the back of some solid results. Now we’ve had a harder run, some key injuries and the usual dip in confidence that accompanies that. By the way, were you really “expecting” to win yesterday?

    • John W. Pattison

      My heart said we would beat LC but my head said we would get beaten and with our squad of players if you REALLY thought we would beat a LC side with essentially the same team that won the Premier league 2 seasons ago then your watching the wrong league (I thought Marhrez and Albrighton were first class). However, in so many games we have just been pipped and subsequently (its little consolation because it doesn’t give us any points but I would STILL argue there are positives to take particularly from yesterdays performance against a top quality side) there has to be a loss of confidence from players and at times it shows. Gayle is clearly numero uno as he is scoring goals so forget Mitro for now. In respect to formation and selection then we have no choice but to leave it to Rafa; bring on Everton.

  • TheFatController

    Many good points, but I’m not sure why you say it’s the same team and formation every week?

    Shelvey has played in games, been captain, and we’ve played well and shocking. Mbemba played a couple of games recently. Haidara, Aarons and Gamez you mention have always seemed (to my eyes) very average when played.

    Mitro seems to be frozen out but Gayle has scored against Chelsea (champions) Leicester (champions 2 years ago) and Man Utd recently so he’s making a case for his inclusion from the start.

    I think when teams are on a bad run, yes you do look at who’s not in the team, but a lot of the players on the bench have started games during this bad run so formation and line up has been altered to no marked difference. Probably cos they’re all cheaper then the opposition, who sit 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 8th,9th and 14th currently.

  • Mrkgw

    Was at yesterdays game and Rafa got the team selection completely wrong. Shelvey and Lascelles should have played, without a doubt. Mitro probably also. Something is quite clearly wrong – ultimately its down to MA’s penny pinching strategy but Rafa doesn’t seem to be using what tools he has adequately.

    • Leazes Ender

      Everton won’t expect the same set up on Wednesday….thats where we’ll fool them.

  • Anita kick up the Hoop

    At last people are daring to question a manager on merit .. the chronicle and Ryder in particular are as far up Rafa’s hoop as you can get without a visa and passport.. The chief sportswriter and head sycophant of the entire Ashley era, including the spineless backing of Kinnear, Pardew and Carver, claims that “a minority of supporters are questioning Rafa’s decisions” … I know we have a lot of sheep who can only muster the tired “in Rafa we trust” cliche whenever you attempt to debate them on genuine footballing concerns BUT im 100% sure we are at the stage where it’s one hell of a lot more than a “minority” of fans who are asking questions of Benitez’s decision making AND more to the point… isn’t the job of a “chief sportswriter” on a local paper who’s only duty is to cover the City’s football team to every once in a blue moon question the manager especially when the side hasn’t won a game in seven attempts?

  • Mxpx

    I’d like to apologise to everyone involved for recent results as I have recently been on an extended holiday in South East Asia when I left we had won our last 3 games I obviously overestimated the personal impact I have on the situation however the good news is that I have just landed in the UK again in the last hour and discovered we lost yesterday but Im expecting a quick turn around

    • Panzerfaust

      Thank God.

  • TheNutJob

    He`s off his trolley & his bias is costing us points & that`s all there is to it.
    keep it up Rafa & we are Doomed

    • Natturner26


  • Leazes Ender

    Really Edison…. all of our players are a muchness, swapping them around is as futile a quest as the chronicle running a poll to find the best starting eleven…. in fact its the same as.

    When I looked at the players on the bench, I said to myself…’where are the game changers, the ones with fire in there belly’…. the weren’t there!

    ….its a squad of umpalumpas and Shelvey.

    • Mike Adam

      How do you know? Also, one possible game changer wasn’t even selected for the squad, Aarons. Without playing time we will never know for sure, will we? Did anyone in England believe Ashley Young would ever be a starting, contributing member of ManU again? Or how about the National team???

      • Leazes Ender

        How do I know?

        Are you saying there are some hidden gems….. they’re very well hidden.

        • Mike Adam

          I guess only you and the Messiah know for sure.

          • Leazes Ender

            Watch the football, look at the squad and look at the league table….. it doesn’t take genius does it?

          • Mike Adam

            And it doesn’t take a genius to know that if you don’t get a chance to step onto the pitch you CANNOT have an effect on the game!!!

          • Leazes Ender

            They are full time professionals, I would guess they are on a pitch most of the time Mike.

            There isn’t a baby in the bathwater….. just a load of suds.

          • Mike Adam

            Not during an EPL game.

          • Albert Stubbins

            He’s not the Messiah he’s a very naughty boy!!

      • 1957

        Someone suggested the problem Benitez has with Mitrovic is no one else will match his wages, so getting him to move is difficult. No games in a world cup year might encourage him to move for reduced wages to try to ensure his place in the Serbian squad, except that isn’t working because the Serb manager has total confidence in Mitrovic and will take him to the world cup whatever.

        • HarryHype59

          Mitro will go out on loan in the next window. This club will cover part of his £60k a week wages.

  • DMol

    Whoever makes the starting eleven at the minute it doesn’t make much of a difference; we’re shocking. The worrying thing is that in the first few games of the season we seemed to have a game plan and regardless of the poor individual players we were a strong defensive unit. That’s gone now and for the last few weeks we’ve been so exposed. Whatever team we’ve played against in this run of form (a lot of mediocre opposition IMO) have looked like scoring when in possession. Looking forward to Wednesday………..

  • 1957

    To answer the article headline, no he hasn’t master plan unless it’s relegating the club

  • Martin

    Mahrez wasn’t mediocre yesterday. He was top quality. We are getting beat by teams with better players. Leicester’s squad is worth about £100 million more than our squad. There is no great mystery. I think the players are playing for Benitez. They are just coming up a bit short. Agree we could go back to 451 but where does that leave Gayle who is our only proven goalscorer. Not sure he works in a 451.

    • DMol

      Brighton, Burnley, Bournemouth, Watford, West Brom…..

      If someone said at the beginning of the season we would get 1 point from a possible 15 against these mediocre (that’s kind in some instances) teams then we would have all turned our noses up.

      We’re a bad team/squad but 4-4-2 is not working and we’ve looked worse in recent weeks playing it.

      I’ll take a few boring 0-0’s or 1-1’s right now, anything to steady the ship; we could even nick a game like we did against Palace and Swansea.

      • MichaelMaximusMoose

        4-2-3-1 doesn`t work either

        • Andy Mac

          ATM its about all we’ve got !

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    up until yesterday i thought we`d survive, just.
    now i think we`ll go down.
    others in the bottom 6 will invest in January, we won`t

    • Leazes Ender

      How do you know that?

      • MichaelMaximusMoose

        Me gran`s Tarot cards

        • Leazes Ender

          Have they been calibrated and authenticated by a qualified charlatan?

          • MichaelMaximusMoose

            well she charged me 20 quid

          • TheFatController

            Ashley would have sold them to you for £30 with a tag saying ‘RRP £99.99’ on them…

          • Albert Stubbins

            Yes Ashely himself has verified them!!

    • Hughie_Gallacher

      I said we’d finish 19th before the season and even the few decent results at the start didn’t change my mind. The squad is simply not up to it.

    • StevieB

      Id agree with that. It depends on the takeover…..it’s as simple as that. If he sells we stay up…..if he stays we go down and we’ll be managerless

      • HarryHype59

        I cannot fathom why one would even pay £250m for a club that will be extremely fortunate, to be in the top tier next season!

        The odds of NUFC being relegated again under Ashley have fallen to 3 to 1!

    • Andy Mac

      I’d like to cheer you up MMM by saying Fatman wants to sell a team in the PL. If it’s relegation threatened the price he can get for it drops or the club becomes unsaleable. Even Fatman isnt that stupid !

  • Albert Stubbins

    Arry rednapp says theres no magical secret to football management. We’ve all been taken in by this myth that rafa can turn water into wine,poor players into good players. Clearly he hasn’t done this, it’s there for all to see. What he can do though is this- if armed with enough money he can bring good players in and play them in a system that works. Good players win things for managers and make them look like a genius. Poor players make people like me question managers like Rafa. It’s not rocket science despite all the smoke and mirrors. Rafa needs good players as does any manager. He already had the nucleus of a good side with Liverpool, Gerard and carragher to name but two. Most managers who win things inherit good players from previous manager, it’s the nature of the game. Rafa

    • GToon

      There is no secret to football management but the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.

      • Albert Stubbins

        He doesn’t do the same things though. He has tinkered more with selection and formations than he ever did last season. He has played 4 4 2 the last few home games which he didn’t do at all last season unless it was desperation stakes. What I think you are referring to is his insurance on playing manaquin, hoss and Perez to a slightly less extent. He is stubborn simple as and apart from Perez,who is Spanish, joselyn and manaquin are his players. He isn’t the first manager to do this but it could be to the detriment of the team in this case.

        • Andy Mac

          “Could be” ? How do you think Mitro feels when he’s scored more PL goals than Joselu ? Or JJ who has has created more goals in the PL than any other current player.

          The art of managment is surely getting the best out of players ?

          • Albert Stubbins

            I totally agree but that wasn’t the point being made. I agree that it’s insulting to mitro and in but that’s the game unfortunately.

          • Andy Mac

            I wrote “could be” because its undoubtedly been an issue with the team. Not too many “We’re all in this together” stories coming from the squad right now and most of the first XI arent sure they’re playing with the best players week in, week out ?

            Rafa has to stop these mind games and take the best XI and work out the gameplan to suit.

  • robbersdog

    Right now though, it’s hard not to see Rafa Benitez in the same dim light as Fabio Capello managing the England team: an undeniably formerly brilliant manager whose previous employment was at Real Madrid, his best work long behind him, struggling with a hostile work environment that falls short of his lofty expectations, stubbornly trying to inflict an inflexible vision upon inadequate players and failing with a sense of inevitability that is all too familiar to the Newcastle United faithful.

    F*cking hell – talk about the glass half empty! I just thought we were having a little blip, but now I realise that we’re going to tumble down the divisions until we’re languishing at the bottom of the Vanarama National League North, having been soundly thrashed 7-0 by North Ferriby. And to rub salt into the wound, Sunderland will win the Champions League and Jackie Milburn will be revealed as Britain’s worst serial killer.

    • Danimal

      Glass half empty? Fireplace half full. Of zero hours vomit.

  • Geordiegiants

    Rafa came and was tasked with keeping us up, he had no chance, but people whingesf their t!ts off. Then he was tasked with getting us promoted, he done it as champions, still the same people moaned on here about that, it wasn’t good enough. Now he has been tasked with keeping us up, so far we are not in the relegation spots, the same people are still moaning. What do these people want him to do with what he has got?

    • HarryHype59

      “So far we are not in the relegation spots”

      Maybe not, but there is now only as two point gap between this team and 17th! NUFC are 20th in the form table!

      Can you now see why people are concerned?

      • Geordiegiants

        And if there is a 2 point gap at the end of the season?

        • HarryHype59

          I said in August that I would take 17th and still do! Two points is a tiny margin of safety!

          • Geordiegiants

            It’s enough.

          • Tino o

            I really want Rafa to be our manager for years to come but he needs to stop playing games with Ashley and pick our stongest team his point is made

        • Andy Mac

          But do we need to be that close to the bottom 3 with the players we have ? Rafa chooses to tell the whole world we havent got enough quality yet leaves out better players or at least players with more chance of succeeding ?

        • Natturner26

          We will be in the bottom three before the new year and you know it.

    • TheFatController

      Be glad the moaners only afflict us on here, there are people that have to live with them, sit at the same table on Xmas day etc.

      We’re the lucky ones in my view …

    • Andy Mac

      You have to ask yourself if Rafa has a masterplan which includes giving two fingers to the Fatman as a thank you to the owner for failing to shell out dosh in the summer ?

      It is the only logical conclusion to draw when Shelvey, Mitro and Mbemba are left out of the team while Rafa bemoans the lack of quality in his squad ?

      Its a risk strategy and might come back to bite his stubborn R’s ?

    • Albert Stubbins

      I think it’s his signings and refusal to drop joselyn who to be fair has been poor that people are peeved with myself included. Rafa has made a few mistakes but far far fewer than our last few managers so I think we need to take a reality check as well.

    • ghostrider

      With what he has got?
      He bought the players.
      The squad is almost entirely his.
      He rarely plays other players that were here before him.
      He rarely plays some of his own buys and has had to farm out some of them because he didn’t trust them.
      I’m 100% convinced we’d have stayed up when Rafa first came if he’d never done what he did by becoming manager and calling all of the players back in on their day off, for training.
      What a way to adhere yourself to players in a crisis situation.

      I firmly believe Shearer made the same mistake when he was tagged with rescuing the season.

      It’s ok coming in as hard line but you do it as you build, not in a crisis.

      Benitez’s problem is his inability to trust and his problem with OCD in refusing to change a mindset of all players are defenders first and attackers as a luxury.

      We might not have the best players but they’re good enough to do a decent job of staying up if managed and coached in the right way, with no bias.
      Mitrovic is not trusted. It’s got nothing to do with him not being very good. He’s plenty good enough for what we require but he’s no good if you don’t provide the service to him and make sure he’s there to get on the end of it and is not spending too much of his time having to chase back to attack from defending.

      Mitro is not racehorse, he’s a defenders hump and to remain a defenders hump, he must be in an attacking part of the field to be that hump and not wasting all of his energy helping out a supposed drilled backline and midfield that magical Rafa supposedly has them.

      Utter poppycock.

      Mitro and co aren’t trusted and aren’t even given more than 10 minutes in a crisis.
      Benitez bringing Mitrovic on with a few minutes to go against Leicester?
      What does that tell you about Benitez?

      The man has literally told Mitrovic he doesn’t like him, nor trust him and will humiliate him by sending him out for a few minutes to do nothing and look nothing.

      I despise Benitez.
      The fans who think he’s something need to wake up quickly before he leaves this club in a worse state than it is after his near 2 season tenure.

      A manager that clears out the supposed deadwood and brings in firewood, then coaches it to cinders.

      Get this man out of our club……NOW.

      • Damon Horner

        Top notch support.

        Rafa could have redistributed some fees better without a doubt but his margin for error in that respect is so small.

        Look at our squad and see the players who signed before Shelvey, not even 2 years ago and you can see we’ve changed a lot of players, taken quality away and done it with a net spend nowhere near high enough in todays market. Speaks volumes when the two teams at the foot of the table have two expensive and experienced goalscorers leading their line.

        Nobody really knows whether Mitrovic is trusted or not but he isn’t a great player, what’s he done to convince people he will save our season? He is better than Joselu but if je came in don’t be surprised to see more of the same.

        • ghostrider

          Let’s evaluate Rafa’s team and him as a supposed top manager and coach.
          Let’s not forget that he has FULL control over players and I’m sure that’ll be in his contract, which means he could walk if that contract is not to his liking…and Rafa is not the sort of man to just go along with just anything that goes against his grain.

          So what has he got.?
          Shelvey who is touted for England.
          Lascelles who is touted for England.
          Lejeune who is a cultured centre back and is not championship player.
          Mbemba who is also a very good centre back of premier quality and an international.
          Matt Ritchie who was a revelation for us and is clear premier quality.
          Atsu has shown premier class. Also an international.
          Hayden is prem quality but under performing.
          Yedlin is a quality prem full back with pace to burn. Also an international.
          Mitrovic is a quality forward if provided with the regularity and the trust and the service. Not the quickest but has all other attributes and is a goalscoring international.
          Gayle has proved that he can score and has pace, plus is skilled enough to actually create his own and others, chances but needs the right system to play.
          Then there’s Aarons and quite a few others who are decent and require a bit of honing in but there is enough in that squad to more than work with and improve to at least keep us well clear of any relegation and to build from there…but guess what?
          Rafa is destroying them one by one by refusing to trust them all to play in a system that affords us 90 minutes plus worth of opportunity.

          Whatever he’s doing on that training pitch must be compromised of 30 minutes of defending and a few hours looking through his Rafa book of kick the ball and run back to defend when the opposition intercept it and then to log down the ground covered by each player in chasing aimlessly as other mediocre teams are made to look like Barcelona.

          Rafa is a dinosaur. He’s inept and he’s not the messiah.
          He’s basically a one trick pony and has no plan B and struggles with a plan A.

          He doesn’t improve players, he zaps the life out of them with aimless graft and refusal to allow them to express themselves and actually show what they are really capable of.

          Mitro will likely knowck on the door. ” boss, I’m busting to play so badly it hurts. Let me loose and I’ll get into my stride and show you I can do it.2

          Rafa to his coaches: ” I’m leaving Mitro out, he’s coming to me trying to dictate…I’ll show him who’s boss.”

          Shelvey: ” Boss, I want to play, why leave me out?”
          Rafa to his coaches: ” Shelvey will suffer for that impertiment rant, wanting to know why he’s not playing and upset about it.”

          And so on.
          I think this git is a moaning minnie and also a strict my way or the highway, no matter what manager.
          I believe he is a sulking git and I don’t like him.
          In fact he goes down as one of my 5 most disliked, ever Newcastle United managers of all time.

          I don’t rate him and I don’t think most of the player do, either.
          Just my opinion, but from what I’m seeing on that pitch and the body language, I’d say I’m closer to home than anything alternate.

  • Damon Horner

    Agreed. We seem to hit a phase where absence makes the heart grow fonder. Lascelles was a risk and certainly Mitro hasn’t proven himself to be a nailed on starter. We have to stick with Rafa because there is no proven winner to step in and everyone else is a risk.

  • TheFatController

    Shelvey played against both Bournemouth and Watford yes. He also has precisely 0 goals this season. He’s a better passer than anyone else and we do need him but clearly he doesn’t run games.

    When players don’t play and you lose a few games the perception can be different from the reality. He’s good but if Rafa has game stats or a game plan it’s not criminal he doesn’t play, just don’t play Diame ahead of him!

    However, I would like him in a MF of Merino and Hayden with Merino at 10. I think they provide a good balance.

  • HarryHype59

    Rafa is a very good manager when he has quality players at his disposal! His record proves this! However, he is struggling with Championship level and EPL journey men at NUFC!

    in fairness both Pep and Jose would find it hard managing the mediocrities at SJP!

    • Dillon Tovak

      We don’t really have journey men (Shelvey maybe?) we don’t have enough Premier League experienced players, that’s the problem.
      Clarke and Gayle have the experience and surprise surprise, they are two that don’t seem completely lost.

    • Albert Stubbins

      Exactly. See my Harry rednapp article about football management. There’s f all you can do with this many poor players. Rafa did buy some of them so should take some responsibility though.

  • Albert Stubbins

    I do vent think he’s forgiven mitro since villa away n his first season. He had two guilty edged chances and blew them both. Had we won that game we’d have stayed up. He’s hardly played him since. He blames mitro for the position we are now in imo.

  • Down Under Mag

    Theres much been made of Mitro not playing, but I honestly don’t think he is good enough and certainly not the answer to all our problems. He would be worth a try at least but I haven’t the same issues with leaving him out as I do with leaving Shelvey out. If you are going to rest Shelvey then do it against Chelsea away where we aren’t expecting anything from the game anyway BUT he needs to play when we have Leicester at home.

    Ritchie needs to be dropped. Don’t get me wrong I think he is one of our best players on his day, but he clearly is suffering a lack of form right now and needs a break and with Aarons a perfect opportunity exists to kill two birds with one stone…give the kids a chance to prove himself and hopefully find a good player and give Ritchie his needed break to recharge his batteries. Murphy was expensive and probably not what we needed to invest in right now, but is showing signs he could be a good player for us so for Aarons to come in and showcase his talent as well could set us up with two good wingers for the future.

    Haidara is just not good enough defensively, however it may be an opportunity once Dummet is fit to put him in at left back and play Haidara on the wing in front of him, it gives Dummet some cover when needed without risking the defensive frailties on a permanent basis and utilises Haidaras pace on the break.

    I think we need some experience in the team, some older heads. That is what is missing when you refuse to buy in players who don’t have resale value, you lose the experienced heads which for on-field priorities are more valuable than a sell on fee. Also, everyone says we need a striker, I actually think we need more in midfield, more creativity and more ball retention. If we create more chances and stop giving the ball away cheaply then Gayle will score goals. Right now though he is feeding off scraps and suffering. Even Joselu is getting a lot of stick for being rubbish but he doesn’t get the service and support needed. There’s a lot wrong with the club right now and Rafa needs to get the players focused on the job at hand, forget the takeover talks, forget the criticism that they aren’t good enough, they were good enough to get the 14 points on the board early on and they need to believe they can get more points because right now they are whimpering into the Championship again.

  • LA toon

    If it is a risk to play Lascelles why was he on the bench? I still can’t fathom why substitutions are made so late in the game.