Two wins. Two. It doesn’t sound a lot when it’s put like that, does it?
That is all Newcastle United may now need to secure a second successive season of top flight football. Touching distance.
There are eight games in which to net the haul of points which are needed. The triumphs against Manchester United and Southampton felt just as pivotal as the wins last year over Brighton and Huddersfield during the promotion push. It turned the tide then, it my have done so once again, just in the nick of time.
The debate is now turning back to the subject of the manager’s future.
This is Groundhog Day for the fans. In the spring of 2017 we were all left wondering whether Rafa Benitez would be given enough assurances and incentives to remain at NUFC. It felt touch and go. While assurances were clearly provided at an end of season summit with the owner, manager and MD, we then saw the traditional transfer window malaise which has dogged the club under Ashley. Rafa stayed.
His patience was tested to the limit. He’s been messed about over the last three transfer windows. In January just gone he was met with a wall of silence. He didn’t know the budget and seemingly had to wait until the owner returned from a holiday in Florida. That in itself was a complete joke for a Premier League club like Newcastle. Rafa stayed.
This year it feels the same as 2017. We don’t have the confidence the owner will do enough to keep a manager like Rafa Benitez happy. He has one more year to run on his deal and so far he’s been coy on the prospect of extending it.
But the chances are that Rafa will honour the deal. It’s lucrative and he may want to keep working on a project he has started, as long as he manages to retain the club’s top flight status.
I’ve seen a fair range of views on social media about the manager’s future. Some think there’s no way he’ll stick it out under the Ashley regime.
But here’s the thing…I have a theory. I can’t stand it up. It’s just a theory, but it’s one I’m sticking to, even if it may be wishful thinking. I don’t think Rafa Benitez is going anywhere this summer.
The bottom line, for me, is that Rafa loves being the manager of Newcastle Utd. There is an emotional pull there for him. He loves his players. He loves his staff. He loves the passion of the Newcastle fans. It’s a strong brand and it all feels such a good fit.
Rafa loves the politics. He’s a workaholic and a football club like Newcastle gives him his fix.
He knows there is potential there. The next round of TV money can help him to bring in more players. It’s a project that is just getting started.
The power brokers at the club must do all they can to get Rafa tied down to a longer contract. Get it sorted before another club makes an offer.
There is no rhyme or reason to the theory that Benitez will stay just because he loves it here…but it’s one that I genuinely believe in.
I even think he will end up signing on for another three years – just so long as Ashley and his mates don’t completely mess it up.
You can follow the author on Twitter @DavePunton