Steve Harper knows his way around Newcastle United.
The goalkeeper spent two decades at St James Park and has seen many many ups and down at the club since joining in 1993.
Twenty five years on and eleven years into the reign of Mike Ashley, Steve Harper believes the owner is playing with fire if he gambles on keeping Rafa Benitez.
The former keeper declaring: ‘God forbid if Rafa Benitez was to leave the football club’, due to lack of support from Ashley.
Pointing to loan signings such as Kenedy and Dubravka after Mike Ashley blocked any buys in January, Harper points to those two players as example of the quality Rafa can attract and are of the ‘quality and level’ the manager wants to have available to him.
Those two loan signings instantly improved the team at the back and going forward, leaving fans wondering what could have been achieved if Ashley had backed Benitez last summer.
The transfer window opens in 16 days time and if the owner plays fair by his manager, Steve Harper believes Newcastle United ‘can move up the table year on year’ with sustained growth over a period of time.
Steve Harper talking to BT Sport:
“If Newcastle finish 10th (or higher), that’s an incredible achievement, and Rafa Benitez needs to be backed.
“Because if he is backed, the players he has brought in…the likes of Kenedy and Dubravka, they have shown the quality and level that he wants to work with.
“If he is backed, hopefully they can move up the table year on year.
“It is a big ask and he is not going to get the amount of money to break into the top six, that’s a big, big ask.
“But if he is backed to the tune of, I don’t know…£50million, £100million, I don’t know what players are now, then I certainly think they are capable of moving up a couple of places in the table.
“He gets it, he gets the club, and he’s won the fans over.
“Rafa has their respect and hopefully he’ll be backed.
“Having spent 20 years here, you know what can be around the corner, but God forbid if Rafa Benitez was to leave the football club.
“You measure any manager by how much he gets out of his players and you would have to say that Rafa Benitez has got the maximum out of this bunch of players.
“To be safe so early is a job very, very well done.”