Rafa Benitez travels to Arsenal today on the back of a run of eight games that feature seven defeats and only one draw.

It is now eight weeks since Newcastle last won, a dismal display against then bottom of the table Crystal Palace, saw United snatch a late winner via substitute Mikel Merino in the 86th minute with their first serious effort on goal.

If not for that late late Merino winner, Newcastle would actually be on a run of 13 weeks and 12 Premier League games without a win,

Even with that victory over Roy Hodgson’s team it is still only six points from the last 36, easily the worst in the whole division,

Despite this you have a pretty unique situation, one where despite the dismal results, the fanbase has stayed resolutely behind Rafa Benitez.

However, one journalist has broken cover and claims the mood is changing.

The journalist in question is Martin Hardy and on the eve of the Arsenal match he has claimed that Rafa Benitez is fighting to retain the support of both players and supporters.

There was a rash of books that came out on the back of Rafa leading Newcastle instantly back to the Premier League but Martin Hardy’s one was claimed to have had unrivalled access to the manager himself, in ‘Rafa’s Way: The Resurrection of Newcastle United’.

However, it now looks as if it is more a mood of  ‘insurrection’ at St James Park if Hardy is on the ball.

He writes: ‘The movement against him (Rafa Benitez) is growing. Newcastle supporters were arguing with each other inside St James’ Park’ (during the defeat to Everton).

As for the squad, Martin Hardy states: ‘Benitez is treading precariously with the confidence and backing of his players, who keep making mistakes.’

So is Rafa really facing a battle for the support of the Newcastle fans?

I don’t really see it.

Yes, fans are obviously going to have their own ideas about who should and shouldn’t be in the team but underpinning that is I believe, a general acceptance that whatever team he puts out, they are not going to be better than the opposition, player for player. The only way they can get wins/points as they did earlier in the season is by playing to their maximum as individuals and as a team, plus making sure they don’t make mistakes.

The opposite has been happening. He is only one of many who can have the finger pointed at him for mistakes but it is difficult not to single out Karl Darlow in terms of what has happened in the last seven days.

Against Leicester, Newcastle took an early lead and were looking confident, with the Foxes not causing too many problems, only for then a long-range effort from Mahrez to beat Darlow, when it should have been easily saved. The team and fans visibly deflating and the mood stifled.

The opening stages against Everton saw Newcastle on top, the visitors pinned back, Ritchie seeing his rocket shot come back off the post. The scousers then go up the other end and a weak header fumbled by Karl Darlow, Rooney scoring from a few yards. Newcastle United once again rocked as a self-inflicted wound would prove to be fatal, yes Mikel Merino was unlucky to see his near 35 yarder come back off the woodwork but Newcastle never really threatened to create danger in the Everton penalty area once they’d conceded.

Without those two pieces of poor goalkeeping I think there is every chance Newcastle could/would have picked up four, or even six, points from these two home matches. However, with those kind of mistakes, similar to what many of his teammates have been doing, then you have very little hope. No manager can legislate for that kind of amateurish play.

Rafa Benitez stated in public in the summer that he wanted a new experienced number one and it was made clear Karl Darlow could leave, a move to Middlesbrough falling down. Rafa was blocked in bringing in that experienced keeper, no doubt due to a refusal by Ashley to pay a fee/high wages on somebody who there would never be a resale value, the net result is Rob Elliot’s form got so poor, Benitez had little choice but to turn to…Karl Darlow.

Supporters understand that this is most definitely a case of a desperate need for some better players, rather than believing there is a better manager that Mike Ashley would appoint in Rafa’s place.

As for Martin Hardy’s point about Rafa Benitez potentially losing the ‘confidence and backing of his players’, I have some sympathy with this.

Rafa Benitez has made a point not criticising any individuals in public but when a manager is repeatedly saying he desperately needs to add better quality to his team, it has to eventually have some kind of negative consequence. The goalkeeping position a perfect example, the manager saying he was desperate for a new number one and then being left with Elliot and Darlow. Neither are close to being a Premier League first choice keeper but knowing your manager agrees with that, can’t be a positive.

As for the supporters, in our poll of thousands of Newcastle fans, 98% wanted to see Jonjo Shelvey play against Everton after being left out for three matches, he then produced that feeble performance which was then topped by a selfish pointless red card with the game already lost. Fans want to see Rafa shake the pack in the hope that it brings a better outcome but he only has the same pack of cards to play with each time and all the aces are missing.

Two or three Premier League level aces added in January could go a long way to getting everybody happy again and pulling in the same direction.

If though in the meantime Rafa Benitez did indeed lose the support of fans and/or players, then the situation would indeed be truly hopeless.

Martin Hardy writing for The Independent:

‘It is once more a romantic football club without any romance. There is a lack of patience and a growing belief among the club’s argumentative fanbase that Benitez is making too many mistakes.

The movement against him is growing. Newcastle supporters were arguing with each other inside St James’ Park during the latest defeat, against Everton, on Wednesday.’

‘Benitez is treading precariously with the confidence and backing of his players, who keep making mistakes. He was at his most angry in the dark hours that followed the loss to Sam Allardyce on Wednesday because of a goalkeeping mistake, a position he had identified as a problem as soon as the transfer window was opened.’

‘Benitez wanted a goalkeeper, a left-back, a number ten and a striker at the start of a summer that has the potential to be another historically significant mistake, so inside his anger and hurt of the current situation is a major element of ‘I told you so.’

‘He has risked further anger by overlooking Aleksandar Mitrovic, who he thinks is not quick enough to play on the counter attack and Jonjo Shelvey (who received his second red card of the season on Wednesday and now has a two-game suspension).’

‘It means Benitez is fighting for the one thing that has always seemed a given – his relationship with Newcastle’s fans.’

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    I think he`s lost, Mbemba, Mitrovic, Jonjo, Aarons & Clark, or at least they are far from happy with Rafa

    • GToon

      All our best players basically. I think he is on the way to losing the fans too. Can u name one other team in the league who plays such negative tactics. The other two who came up with us don’t, nor do bottom side palace or West Ham etc etc. We play a game of sitting back even at home. Just like pardew did!! Simply saying the team aren’t good enough and playing in that manner is not good enough. We even did it in the championship too!

    • GToon

      And I would give 3-5-2 a try. Or has our tactical genius not considered that yet?

  • Damon Horner

    What matters more than anything here is the club, Newcastle United. If there is a player who is causing issues in the dressing room it will show our lack of focus if it is them we are supporting.

    • Soldier

      it seems it`s the manager causing the issues

      • Damon Horner

        Never as simple as that but I’m not to bothered at finger pointing. If you want to go, put a transfer request, if you get selected, play for the fans and your career.

        Ignore the manager for a moment, I think a lot of these players don’t have the standing to command another PL club, this could be a big decision in their careers if they’re dropping their game.

        • Michael Smith

          they wont ask to go because they were given long contracts on money well above their pay grade

          • Damon Horner

            Probably right. I’ll stand by the comment though, if you engage in a war with the manager (even if the manager is fully at fault) then you’re contributing to letting the fans and your teammates’ down and even hindering your next contract be it here or elsewhere,
            the club is all that should matter.

        • Kneebotherm8

          Most of them ARE playing at the top of their game,that’s the problem in this division we haven’t got enough quality and we all suspected that before the season started.

          • Damon Horner

            I agree, just responding to the theoretical perception from some of the players. Even some of our star players I doubt are more than bottom end PL quality.

            We don’t like the loan market or pay instalments. We needed that this year. Players and manager for me have battled admirably, relegation will be mainly on Ashley for me.

          • Kneebotherm8

            Rafa did state before the season started that his plans were for loan deals just to help us through this season and safety,how many was he allowed?…….not a one,on the basis the loaning clubs or players were demanding excessive payments etc.
            That’s the reason Rafa is failing at the moment………..no backing from Ashley and co. he’s been sold down the river,as have the fans who deserve better than this.

          • Damon Horner

            Without doubt. Forget how much was “wasted”, for me if I made the decisions, The manager could spend more through finance arrangements and installment plans when it was needed and a bit less when the side was more stable. It was clear we needed it in the summer, it’s just negligent on Ashley’s part.

          • Kneebotherm8

            How many managers have been treated with contempt by Ashley? it’s just a pity Benitez is taking the flak now for Ashley’s penny pinching,dictatorial,incompetence.

          • Damon Horner

            I despair a bit because he has connected to the fans and can see our potential. He always speaks his mind as well, honest which is some of the bigger criticisms of the likes of Pardew.

            Rafa could be terrible but while Ashley continues to run the club in total disconnection to the proper running of a club then Rafa has a legit way out.

            Bring on January and the takeover, can’t come soon enough.

  • Gallowgate Frost

    More doom and gloom fuelling the minds of the fans who cant make their own mind up. I’ll be hearing this at the City game. It’s funny because where I sit in the Gallowgate people dont even support the team, they would rather pick faults or make some BS up. These ones making the BS up and getting on players backs etc replaced the ones who didnt want to give Ashley any more of their hard earned money. If any of you are reading this come back because the ones who have replaced you are getting right on my nerves and killing the atmosphere. It’s like Ive got a group of Paul Mersons around me

  • ghostrider

    I admire the loyalty to Benitez and the players, even through his negativity in most of the season.
    The thing is how long do we allow the excuses of ” we could have” we should have” “if only” ” but for” …..etc before we say enough is enough?

    Do we just carry on from now and get beat and say ” ahhh but that was Arsenal away, it doesn’t count” or ” ahhh but that was Man City that hammered us and they’re running away with the league so that doesn’t count” …in Rafa we still trust for whatever reason other than ” he’s a world class manager you know” ” he’s meticulous, is Rafa, he leaves no stone unturned.”

    Seriously, do the majority of fans want to not only watch negative football but watch it being played by players who are crying out not to play negative football but are being trained to ensure that caution is always the key?

    Every now and again we are treated to half an hours worth of attacking gusto which is equivalent to taking a run at the hill in your one litre Corsa and just knowing that your fast dash will soon be a chugging whimper to get to the top.

    I think the situation with fans is a little bit mixed emotions to be fair, because I think many fans are hoping a takeover provides Rafa with no excuse in the transfer market.
    I think the patience will soldier on till the end of January with Rafa additions and if we are in trouble by the end of February, I don’t think the fans will be as forgiving and I don’t think Rafa has any more excuses left.

    Personally speaking I honestly think he should be sacked or walk right now because I genuinely believe he’s lost 75% of the players.

    Trying to add a few fresh apples to apples that are already decaying in the bowl will only end up following the very same route.

    Take out the decaying apples or the main one causing the decay and you have a chance.
    Rafa is the main one that’s causing the decay, in my opinion.


    • TheFatController

      When I watch match of the day, I see some top half teams – Leicester, Watford upwards – waiting for lower half teams to ‘open up’ so they can destroy them on the break.

      The best exponents of this are Liverpool because they have firmino, coutinho, Salah , and Sane.

      Most teams with inferior players set up to frustrate by sitting deep – the best exponents of this this season are are Burnley, although they do have the benefit of some exceptional defenders.

      We don’t have any exceptional players, maybe one or two great defenders. But hey, if you’re advocating giving up our negative play I’m sure arsenal will be the first of many teams to second that suggestion….

      • Damon Horner

        My brother is a Man Utd fan and it frustrated him because Man Utd did it against Bournemouth.

      • ghostrider

        Are you telling me you’d rather watch negative play on a regular basis in the hope of stifling the opposition and maybe earning a draw or a sneaky win?
        I’d rather the club play in the third division as an attacking team than play in the premier league as a consistent negative team, allowing the opposition teams fans the excitement of watching us struggling to stifle attacks.

        I’m more than willing to accept some negative football in any game…..SOME….but certainly not at home against teams we are on par with or as close to par with.

        • TheFatController

          I take your point on home games, but you play to your strengths and we are rubbish up front in terms of creating chances and finishing them.

          So even at home, we have to use our strengths, which with Lascelles on the pitch is the defence.

          Rafa has no choice but to be negative because we aren’t capable of hurting teams if we play in the front foot. It’s why we started well against Bournemouth, Man Utd and Chelsea but soon fizzle out as the opposition are surprised we are more positive, so then adapt and drop deeper to hit us on the break more.

          We are too open and they then take control. That’s why Rafa offend says we are too inexperienced to manage games. When they drop and play on the break, we have to manage that and not push too many onto them. They’ll murder us through the holes left at the back. Watford did this as an example.

          • ghostrider

            I’m not asking for us to go hell for leather at any time.
            All I want is for Rafa to balance it out.
            Horses for courses in the correct way, not playing one up top against very winnable opposition…especially at home.

            I fully expect us to be fairly negative against the top quality teams away from home especially but any team owes it to their own fans to take the game to the opposition and at least be balanced enough to ensure the opposition don’t get open opportunities to counter by an inability to work their back line and keeper by simply losing possession and being taken apart.

            We have the pace in our team to cause anyone problems but when that pace is found wanting in any attack by coming to nothing then we are found gagging at the back and left with a mish mash of players scurrying all over like mice being attacked by a barn owl that’s absolutely starving because it hasn’t eaten much for a few weeks due to a bad owl stomach bug going about, which obviously you won’t know about because this is my un-paragraphed story .

            Anyway forget the last bit, I just thought I’d make a bit light of the situation. lol…sorry about the lol but I don’t know where the smileys are. lol.

    • Kneebotherm8

      I suspect you’re one of the the ones who wanted Sir Bobby out because he’d lost the dressing room/ indiscipline etc,only to be replaced by Sourness who would instill discipline blah de blah etc etc?
      Take out the decaying apples or the main one causing the decay and you have a chance
      Mike Ashley is the main one that’s causing the decay, in my opinion.

      • ghostrider

        Nah, I didn’t want Robson out. I liked his football even if some players tried to undermine him.
        I agree Ashley out.
        He can’t take us any further than messing around mid-table or scraping around the bottom with the refusal to bankroll the club…but then again PCP will hopefully bank roll us, right?

        Remember, we generate funds the club generates itself or the sugar daddies bankroll us into the elite.

        PCP potential? Let’s hope, because that’s all we’ve got left if we want to play higher up.

        • Kneebotherm8

          Benitez has been undermined by Ashley for daring to voice criticism in his direction,I’m surprised he’s still here tbh.
          The squad is bereft of key players which Benitez wanted in and that’s why we’re struggling big time.
          We couldn’t even get short term loan players in pre season,thanks to Ashleys intransigence(or should that be vindictiveness).

          • ghostrider

            It takes two to tango. Ashley might be this and that but the blame does not solely lie at his feet with all of this, I’m sure of that.

          • Kneebotherm8

            He’s lied and lied to Benitez and the fans,he’s one odious individual.
            This manager has had very little say on transfer policy,little more than every manager here since Keegan.

          • ghostrider

            What do you mean he’s lied and lied to Benitez?
            Let’s get things into a bit more real perspective.
            Rafa helped get us relegated. He wasn’t the major player in it but he had enough games and in a decent position to get us out. He failed.
            However, he negotiated a contract after relegation that said he has control…right?
            He was promised transfer money and he got it in abundance for the championship…fair enough?
            Any lies at the minute?
            Now let’s get something a little bit more into the clear.
            This championship manager not only negotiated the control of transfers he also negotiated a 5 million a year wage.

            And you think Ashley’s been lying to him and not playing fair?
            So we get back to the premier and Rafa gets told he can have every penny the club generates.
            Was he lied to?
            He was told that he had to sell players to enable him to add players because of the size of the wage bill and personnel.

            Rafa managed to offload a few players and bought in replacements…or to be honest, he bought in players he didn’t really need to and left players he did need, on the backburner and only panic buying when it all fell through.

            This is why we have Joselu, who happens to be Spanish.
            And Manquillo who happens to be Spanish.

            So what’s Ashley lied about?

            It’s very simple. Very very simple.

            Rafa can have all of the money the club generates that is naturally spendable at any specific time.

            Unfortunately for Rafa he has to wait for transfer windows.
            He had the summer and bought. He could have bought more if he’d have offloaded so where are the lies?

            The lies aren’t there. The excuses from Rafa, are.
            I don’t like the man at this football club and he should be sent packing, whether Ashley does it or PCP.

          • Kneebotherm8

            Preferred option Matt Targett ain’t Spanish,neither is Abraham.

          • ghostrider

            But he didn’t get them. Is that Ashley’s fault?
            Abraham chose Swansea and Southampton wouldn’t sell Targett as he’d just signed a 5 year deal and wouldn’t loan him unless it was for a huge fee.

            So Rafa goes for his options. HIS options.
            Ashley’s fault?
            Rafa’s fault or Rafa’s shoddy homework.

          • Mitros gotta start

            Take a bow sir

          • Kneebotherm8

            Bow wow…………Ashley lapdog.

          • Kneebotherm8

            It’s not him that’s offloading the players,if he was then Mitrovic would have been away wouldn’t he?
            He’s been quoted as saying he was very disappointed that Mitro hadn’t been sold and was still there and in his squad.
            Control of transfers,don’t make me laugh.
            He doesn’t go out and do the deals,Penfold does that under the auspices of Ashley,Benitez has been led up the garden path by Ashleys lies.

          • ghostrider

            Ahjhhh right, so if Benitez can’t shift players he doesn’t want, it’s Ashley’s and Charnley’s fault.
            If he buys in players that are so inept or he never plays and farms them out, it’s Ashley’s fault and Charnley’s fault.

            If Rafa brings in a player that actually looks decent, it’s a Rafa masterstroke. Is this about right in what you appear to be implying?

            5 million a year and a hell of a long time to take to negotiate his contract, along with his lawyer (iirc) to make sure that he covered all avenues to suit himself.
            Basically printing off as many get out of jail free cards in order to walk away with his head held high, no matter what shape we are in when he does walk.

            He’s basically unsackable at this moment in time so it seems he’s got January to buy and obviously if he buys bad it’s not his fault because he doesn’t do the bad deals, right?
            If he gets 30 million to spend and offloads a few players to add to it, it’s still just 30 million, right?

            Let’s just hope that rafa gets it right in whatever way it happens, because it’ll stop me whining and it’ll give me some zest for the game, back, because Rafa is slowly but surely destroying my enjoyment.

            He either gets it right or he’s going to have to add enough excuses to change it up in the ” nowt to do with me” department.

            Lucky for Rafa working under an owner that’s despised because Rafa can get away with murder.
            Amazing what a man with a reputation can do to make people stand there and take off and roll their caps, no matter what.
            “Aye Mr Benitez (rolls cap with head bowed) we trust in you Sir. We (rolls cap with head bowed) accept you’re doing the best job you can with these horrible players who’ve been thrown at you by those horrible men who run the club ( rolls cap with head bowed) in a terrible way.

            I hate doing this but I feel like it needs to be said because I refuse to blow smoke up the aris of a person based on past reputation and recent dire football, no matter who gets the blame for the player ins and outs.

            It used to be Carr the genius talent spotter and then Carr the utter clueless git, then Rafa dispenses with Carr and the players are all down to Charnley and Ashley and Rafa has had them thrown at him.

            Guffaw guffaw guffaw.

            It’s like being punched in the stomach and people saying ” doesn’t that hurt?” and you say ” yeah it hurts but this person who’s whacking my guts, I respect.”

            Aye, let’s respect Rafa because he’s doing a sterling job under disgraceful circumstances and on paupers wages because he loves the fans and the city and the club enough to just feel that love.


          • Kneebotherm8

            5 million to keep quiet and say nowt eh?……miscalculation there by Ashley, he’s obviously not a stooge like the previous incumbents.
            Poring over the fine details in his contract?????…….nowt wrong with that when dealing with an individual like Ashley is there?……..I bet KK wished he’d done the same..
            Rafa slowly killing your enjoyment?……. Ashley’s been doing that for the past 10 years at this club for me……

          • ghostrider

            5 million to keep quiet?
            He’s hardly keeping quiet. He’s moaned every since his mental tactics went haywire and used every excuse.
            Ashley’s tenure hasn’t been super joyful for most of it, I agree but it’s rarely been as dire as this and to think, under a so called world class manager on 5 million a year.

            As for Keegan, he was good the first time as a player and manager but has the adulation of players who came to play for him and also the near blank cheque of the time to go out and do the business.

            Little did we know that the club, or should I say John Hall and Fletcher and co took a massive gamble on success and failed.

            It was left to Shepherd ands co t6o beg steal and borrow to keep the fans appeased.
            The club ended up in a dire mess. A real dire mess.

            Ashley walked into the club and everyone was licking his aris.
            “We’ve got a billionaire owner, we’re saved and cooking on gas.”

            The he made his biggest mistake. He brought in a messiah…Rafa Benitez…..ooops, sorry that’s this time around.
            He brought back Keegan the messiah, thinking fans wanted him and in a way they embraced it at that moment, until they realised he was out of his depth.

            Down hill from there. No way back for Ashley.
            I’ll tell you what though, I’ve had 4 really enjoyable seasons under Ashley, out of 10 seasons. 4 mediocre and 2 horrible ones.

            The 4 seasons of enjoyment, 2 were in the championship.
            One was a 5th placed finish and another finishing 9th.

            I wanted more. I hoped for all kinds of stuff but I was thankful we still had a club, as I am now, even in this predicament.

            10 years and we are still in the premier league after two slip ups and two championship titles.
            We are still in the premier league under Ashley’s tenure.

            Being the miser that he is and how he likes to goad the fans, as some fans say, he sanctions a move for a world class manager on high wages whilst also keeping season ticket prices at a 10 year freeze.

            Also making the payments easy to manage.
            The man is a monster…right?

            Do we deserve more?
            Could we have gotten a lot less?

            You see, I want more. I can’t expect more but I want more or I hope to get more than what I’ve been getting.

            I wonder how many fans of other teams are hoping for the same but knowing they have an owner who tells them the very same thing, as in, the club must run from it’s own generated revenue and not the owners pocket.

            But, we all want better and yet some are happy to have another manager lead us into the depths of despair because the focus of hate is firmly taken away from the new messiah that can’t seem to do no wrong and yet Ashley’s screwed him over.


          • Kneebotherm8

            How did Keegan get £2 million unfair dismissal payment off Ashley?……..you conveniently forgot to mention that one……..

          • ghostrider

            Why do I need to mention that?

          • Kneebotherm8

            He brought back KK and proceeded to undermine him by putting his “cockney mafia” in place to run the club,you know the ones I mean don’t you?
            He treats managers with contempt,just as he’s doing with Benitez.
            As far as the ticket freeze is concerned,that’s just in line with the teams mediocre performances over the last 10 years,and his SD brand wouldn’t look so good at a half empty stadium would it?
            He knows that and so do we.
            You’ve had 4 good seasons, you say,fromAshley?
            So what were the seasons like under Keegan’s entertainers,for you?
            Absolutely brilliant,unforgettable years for me,but you’d probably have been kakking yourself,wringing your hands, thinking we shouldn’t have spent this and we shouldn’t have spent that.
            Those days will live long in the memory for me and all toon fans who witnessed them,whereas these past 10 years will be totally forgettable.

          • ghostrider

            The seasons under Keegans entertainers were excellent, I loved them.
            I wonder why Keegan left. Do you know?

          • Kneebotherm8

            I know why he left under Mike Ashley.

          • ghostrider

            So do I. He was promised things and they weren’t delivered and he won his case against Ashley for constructive dismissal.
            I wonder why he left Newcastle under Hall?

          • Kneebotherm8

            Broken promises from Mike Ashley?????? I refuse to accept that one…couldn’t possibly…….no chance….give over……I don’t believe it…

          • ghostrider

            Any idea why Keegan left the club the first time around?

          • Kneebotherm8

            Those were the days,fantastic team,a team to be proud of,most of the country’s favourite second team,a joy to watch,envied by most other clubs /fans………..great days………………unlike the laughing stock of a club we’ve got now and for the majority of the last 10 years,butt of all the jokes,patronised by Match of the day presenters etc……………………sad times……………

          • ghostrider

            We’ll leave it at that. Pointless asking you again.