If we are to believe some of what we read in the press and on some forums, there is a growing swell of Newcastle fans who not only question the decisions of Rafa Benitez, but also believe that it is time for a change.
We read comments from multiple armchair managers, FIFA experts and statistic quoting loudmouths, who will all give you all the mathematical and statistical reasons why Rafa is underperforming, has been well supported, and should be moved along swiftly.
However, football isn’t about figures on a balance sheet and the only statistic which really matters is winning football matches, something which Rafa has shown himself to be much better at than those who preceded him (since Sir Bobby) throughout his career.
We can talk about financial support, and frame the figures to suit any argument we care to make, we can talk about losing runs and ignore those financial arguments, or we can be honest with ourselves about where the club finds itself and why. As well as the unprecedented level of real support for the manager when you actually step away from the keyboard and get out in the real world.
Previous to this season I had attended precisely one live Newcastle match in the previous nine seasons, an away game at Nottingham Forest in our first Championship season.
I refuse to financially support a regime which is so blatantly killing the identity of the football club. This season has been different though, the away trip at Stoke was my fifth game of the season and already have tickets for the home match with Swansea. What, or rather who, has brought about my change in attitude is the manager and how he has put his back into taking as much of the football club as he can, back into the community and back to the fans.
These days I find myself more able to talk about football rather than balance sheets, about performances and results rather than protests and the latest embarrassment brought about by Bernard Manning in the boardroom, and I solely credit Rafa Benitez with changing mine, and others’, perception of being a Newcastle United fan.
Rafa has done this by not sucking up to the owner (a la Pardew, Carver and Schteve), but by providing honest and objective reasoning of what is required to improve the team and by basically not simply being a mouthpiece for the board.
When you find yourself amongst your fellow fans you will be hard pressed to find many with a bad word to say about the manager, unlike when you log onto the internet.
Recently, at both the Brighton game and the Stoke game, I was amongst scores of fans chanting the manager’s name with passion and intensity, louder than any other chant perhaps other than the “when Ashley sells the club” crowd favourite. So for those of us who are left scratching our heads when we log on and read those who want the manager out (and replaced with who?), do not worry, you are the sane ones.
The vocal minority are exactly that, a minority, and they come with no real answers other than they want him gone, but out in the real world people understand that Rafa Benitez is doing his best with what he has, he is not perfect but he is better than we have had in many many years.
As I left the ground in the rain at Stoke on New Year’s day, basking in the glory of our deserved victory, I listened to fans talking excitedly about what could be with owners who had ambition and with Rafa at the helm.
My joy was not even dampened when one of our own fans said to me ‘Charlie Adam played well for your lot today’.
Sorry, I might be missing the accent but I’m not missing the hope that with Rafa Benitez things can get better.