Everybody remembers that the summer transfer window of 2017 was a desperate disappointment for both Rafa Benitez and the Newcastle fans.
However, there appears to be pretty much total collective amnesia when it comes to recalling exactly what happened in the final week.
Maybe it is understandable as of course the season was by then underway and Newcastle beat West Ham 3-0 on 26 August 2017.
Following an international break, Rafa’s players then went and won 1-0 at Swansea (10 September), before comprehensively outplaying Stoke City and beating them 2-1 at St James Park (16 September).
A defeat to Brighton followed, but then very decent draws against Liverpool and Southampton, finally a late late winner against Crystal Palace at home.
With 14 points from the first nine matches, Newcastle were flying high in the top half of the season.
It wasn’t that Mike Ashley was forgiven by fans for the lack of support for Rafa in the summer window, or that any normal person thought the season would end with a top eight finish.
More so that fans were simply enjoying their team back in the Premier League and more than holding their own, though it was obvious Rafa Benitez had the group producing over and above what players could offer as individuals.
It was 30 October 2017 when Newcastle lost at Burnley, fully two months since the summer transfer window had closed.
Only one point from nine matches starting with that defeat at Burnley, it becoming all too apparent to Newcastle supporters how failure to buy quality had left Rafa’s team unable to really compete with anyone outside the relegation battle.
When Newcastle supporters recalled it (the summer transfer window), there was still much anger, disappointment and thoughts of what could have been possible, but it was also understandable that fans remembered it as a general picture and not in detail – as in what happened and when.
Moving forward and we are now in yet another frustrating January under Mike Ashley (he has made a profit of £30m on January transfers during his ownership), three weeks in and no signings.
However, let’s go back to that final week of the summer transfer window…
Rafa Benitez had signed Mikel Merino on loan late in July and then followed repeated requests from the United boss for Mike Ashley to honour his promises, on proper backing to bring in the quality Newcastle needed.
Exasperated and with Dwight Gayle having major injury/fitness worries and Rafa having no faith in Mitrovic, he accepted he had to make some kind of striker signing, bringing in Stoke’s reserve journeyman striker for £5m in mid-August to lead the line.
Those continued requests from Rafa fell on deaf ears and indeed it was widely reported that Rafa going public had infuriated the NUFC owner, who then sent his minions (Justin Barnes, Keith Bishop and Lee Charnley) around to tell Rafa he had to stop complaining in the media about lack of transfer support.
It then was reported that Rafa Benitez had been told that he could make a late signing or two in August, if he agreed to make major savings on wages and bring in some transfer fees on top of that.
In the last week of August we saw:
24 August – Emmanuel Riviere is sold/given away to Metz
27 August – Siem de Jong is sold to Ajax
29 August – Grant Hanley is sold to Norwich
30 August – Tim Krul leaves on loan to Brighton which quickly becomes a permanent deal
30 August – Achraf Lazaar goes on a season-long loan to Benevento
Five first team squad players leave, knocking a massive amount off the wage bill, possibly as much as £10m instantly for the 2017/18 season, plus at least £5m in transfer fees (for Hanley and de Jong) and potentially loan fees as well.
Despite that, no mysterious late signing(s) appeared for Rafa Benitez.
Along with the £40m transfer profit Rafa delivered in summer 2016 and no signings at all in January 2017, what more could the Spaniard do in order to help pave the way for some better quality signings?
When you look at the money brought in and wages slashed in the final week of August 2017, it makes it even more disgraceful that 21 days into the January window, that Rafa Benitez hasn’t even been backed to make a single loan signing as yet.
How can any rational person doubt who is the cause of Newcastle United’s problems, it starts and ends at the very top.