Rafa Benitez is the only glue that holds everything together at Newcastle United.
Newcastle fans don’t want to find out what life would be like without him, certainly it would be fear and not anticipation as you waited to see who Mike Ashley replaced the Spaniard with.
Looking back at past NUFC managers it is all a bit strange, looking for those who you yearned for when they ended up in a dugout elsewhere.
Losing Arthur Cox after winning promotion back in 1984 with Keegan, Waddle and Beardsley, was ludicrous, but that is 34 years ago.
Dalglish, Gullit, Souness, Roeder, Allardyce, Kinnear, Hughton, Pardew, Carver, McClaren…many of them never managed again in the Premier League again and whilst Roeder was pretty well liked as a former player, only Chris Hughton inspired any real affection for what he achieved as a manager at St James Park.
Sir Bobby Robson didn’t end up in the opposition dugout against Newcastle United, so we never found out what that would feel like.
Which leaves us with Kevin Keegan.
He called time at Newcastle in January 1997, eventually returning to management with Fulham in September 1997. However, that was in the third tier and after promotion in 1999 he moved over to manage England full-time.
Following England, Keegan’s next port of call was Manchester City in May 2001, who had just been relegated to the second tier.
Man City were drawn against Premier League Newcastle in the FA Cup and Keegan at last returned to St James Park, over five years since his departure. Keegan got a massive welcome back and Newcastle won thanks to a Nobby Solano goal, so everybody was happy…well on Tyneside anyway.
It wasn’t just the five years that took the edge off this reunion, after enduring Dalglish and Gullit, Newcastle had hit lucky again with Sir Bobby Robson and he was now making them contenders.
Newcastle had reached Christmas 2001 top of the Premier League and when Man City and Keegan visited in the FA Cup, they were still in there fighting for the title, actually in the following match going to Sunderland where a Dabizas winner kept that bubbling away.
Kevin Keegan was still a king on Tyneside but by the time he returned, Newcastle fans had a Geordie knight fighting their corner with a competitive team playing exciting football.
It was nice to see Kevin but both he and us had moved on.
Moving forward 16 years and if Rafa Benitez ends up in another Premier League dugout, there will be no Sir Bobby Robson equivalent taking his place, not now and not ever under Mike Ashley.
If Ashley does intend to stay on, which all the signs sadly point to, then he has to understand that Rafa Benitez needs to be part of that package.
Hopefully for all of us that is a major strength, with even Mike Ashley realising that stark truth, so that Rafa Benitez has an unbelievably strong hand when getting what he needs this summer.