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Opinion

Rafa Benitez now takes Newcastle United back to where it all began

3 years ago
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Rafa Benitez took over at St James Park on Friday 11 March 2016.

That afternoon the new NUFC boss took his first training session with Newcastle United, time being of the essence with only 10 games to avoid disaster.

Three days later Rafa had arguably the toughest introduction, travelling to champions-elect Leicester City, a team that was to lose only three Premier League matches all season.

Newcastle showed marginal improvement but nothing dramatic, Leicester winning with a single scrappy goal from Okazaki. Nine games still to go for Rafa’s Newcastle United.

Within weeks though, Leicester were crowned champions and Newcastle had been relegated.

A lot of water under the bridge in these two short years, Champions League football for some…a learning curve in the Championship for others.

A win on Saturday though for Rafa Benitez would see only a five point gap between the two clubs and almost guaranteed safety for Newcastle United.

A reminder of just how quickly things can change in football.

To emphasise that, these last 25 months have seen title winners and Champions League contender Leicester City have four managers, whilst Newcastle have had Rafa Benitez sticking it out despite the malevolent shadow of Mike Ashley.

Claudio Ranieri replaced within a year of winning the Premier League, Craig Shakespeare enjoying a honeymoon period of Champions League football, before a two game spell for caretaker Michael Appleton, then finally Claude Puel taking over after being sacked by Southampton.

Just another strange tale of the transient nature of life as a Premier League manager but a reminder of how grateful Newcastle fans are to Rafa Benitez for sticking at it.

Leicester City did everybody a great favour when silencing those who claimed only a handful of elite clubs could now compete, the Foxes proving that with a potent mix of talent, good judgement and luck flowing in the right direction, anything is possible.

Will Newcastle and/or Leicester ever win the league or even enjoy Champions League football once again?

Who knows, or cares.

What is important is building things step by step and who knows where Newcastle might end up, if enjoying another two years or more under the experienced management of Rafa Benitez…

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