Sky Sports have asked their pundits about the prospects of the various Premier League clubs next season, Phil Thompson getting the job of talking about Newcastle United.

Like the rest of us he is a big Rafa Benitez fan and throughout last season (and before) said how key he is and has indeed been, to Newcastle’s prospects at any time.

Earlier this week Phil Thompson paid tribute (see below) to the job the Spaniard had done this season.

The Sky Sports pundit pointing to two key areas – keeping everybody together, particularly the fans. Not many other clubs could have gone on a run (Oct-Dec) of only one point from nine matches and there still remained that unity between manager, players and fans.

Thompson also credited Rafa with the brilliant job he had done with a ‘team full of Championship players’, this of course is slightly over the top but the fact remains, there is no way that Newcastle had the 10th strongest squad last season and the manager got them to overachieve.

As for next season?

Yet again Phil Thompson can’t see past Rafa Benitez.

The pundit saying ‘the biggest danger for the club is him walking away.’

With it now five weeks and counting since Newcastle reached Premier League safety and no progress in talks between Rafa’s people and Mike Ashley’s minions, you can’t exactly be feeling optimistic that Ashley is going to start and do things properly.

Rarely can you have had a club where the future is on such a knife edge with regards to a manager. Newcastle fans seeing total confidence (not guarantees of success but doing things in the right way and making positive decisions) and hope for the future BUT only seeing disaster if Mike Ashley forces Rafa Benitez out.

The one small positive is that now it isn’t just Newcastle fans who stand alone in seeing what has to happen, there is widespread acceptance across the media in agreement, with only the really disreputable saying otherwise.

We are now into the second day of the summer transfer window and the Newcastle manager’s future is the only signing being talked about…

Phil Thompson’s asked on Sky Sports about Newcastle’s 2018/19 prospects:

“The priority has to be to convince Rafael Benitez to stay.

“Because even the fans would understand if he walked away due to lack of funding again.

“They can’t make assurances to him again and not back it up.

“Because the biggest danger for the club is him walking away.”

Tuesday 15 May – Phil Thompson speaking to Sky Sports about Rafa Benitez and this past season:

“I think he’s done an absolutely astonishing job.

“Not too many backed them for relegation initially …

“But when the transfer window shut you were really fearing for them, as the team was already full of Championship players, and they looked like they needed more Premier League quality.

“That meant that the biggest thing they had on their side was the manager.

“Who kept the fans on side and stopped a toxic atmosphere creeping into the club.”