Hi, I’m Raja, a Newcastle fan based in Singapore. I would like to dedicate an article about Rafa Benitez with it being his birthday.
It was the 2015/16 Premier League season, we just had been beaten 1-3 by Bournemouth at home. Relegation was now almost confirmed. The future looked bleak; the dark clouds only emphasised the mood of the Toon Army faithful.
What we witnessed next was beyond our wildest dreams, a certain Mr Rafael Benitez was appointed as our new manager.
Unbelievable, this was a man who just months earlier was the boss of Real Madrid. Newcastle fans immediately took to him.
Sure, we couldn’t prevent relegation, but we ended the season on a six-game unbeaten run which included creditable draws against Liverpool and Manchester City, as well as a 5-1 demolition of Tottenham. It was on that day Rafa Benitez succumbed to the love of the Toon Army and decided to lead the promotion charge.
Usually, for other clubs, relegation would have been a disaster, selling of top players, slashing of wage bills. But ironically for Newcastle, it was the start of something special. The RAFALUTION HAD BEGAN!
Off went the overpaid and gutless mercenaries. In came players who no longer saw Newcastle as a stepping stone – but players who were prepared to give everything for the shirt.
As the season went on, the bond between manager, players and fans grew stronger. Some even said it was just like the Sir Bobby days.
Promotion was clinched. The future looked bright.
Just as things were all looking good, Mike Ashley seemed hell-bent on screwing things up again. Rafa wasn’t backed. Instead, he was given a “Championship” team to combat the Premier League.
Against all the odds, Rafa took it upon himself to prevent another relegation. We might have a team lacking in quality – but not heart. The fans saw this. We believed in this group of players because what we were witnessing is a team which is trying. The love for Rafa and our appreciation for the players just got stronger.
Right now we’re in a shout of the top eight!
It is fitting that hours before his 58th birthday, we were able to give him a 2-1 win over Arsenal as an early birthday present.
Thank you for rescuing my football club.
Thanks for uniting the city.
Thanks for making us Newcastle UNITED again!
Happy birthday Rafa and cheers to many many years as Toon boss!