There can’t be another club, certainly not in the Premier League, where the manager remaining in position is more important than is the case with Rafa Benitez at St James Park.
Some outsiders choose not to understand, both fans of other clubs as well as some in the media.
It isn’t that Newcastle fans think that no other manager in the world is as good as Rafa Benitez.
It is rather that Newcastle supporters know that any other manager remotely in the same ball park as the Spaniard, wouldn’t touch a Mike Ashley owned Newcastle United with the proverbial bargepole.
We know we are lucky to have Rafa and we know that he is the only positive thing at NUFC presently, which could lead to a better future.
We have a handful of decent players, with maybe one or two such as Kenedy (only on loan) and Lascelles who could potentially turn out to be a bit better than that, but they are no world beaters.
So our hopes, as it stands, all rest on Rafa Benitez. The driving force then behind the reasoning for the #IfRafaGoesWeGo supporter initiative.
Just like a year ago, the Newcastle manager has chosen to wait until the pre-season training camp in Ireland to express his concerns about the lack of transfer activity.
Until that point he had stayed quiet, presumably hoping some ambition and goodwill would be shown by Mike Ashley.
With the foreshortened summer window now, by the time Rafa spoke out before the first friendly against St Patrick’s Athletic, there was only four weeks until the kick-off of the Premier League and less than that until the transfer window slams shut. He literally couldn’t have left it any longer before speaking out and telling everybody that Newcastle needed so much more in terms of new signings.
Benitez has gradually ramped up the comments/pressure and then it really exploded on Wednesday night, a totally demoralising performance and result saw Newcastle lose 4-0 to Braga.
To be honest, I think it would have happened four days later, if not for the fact that Porto were denied a four goal minimum victory due to the woodwork, great goalkeeping, bad luck, and some desperate last-ditch defending.
However, the Braga game broke the dam and Rafa Benitez spoke out, the vast majority in sympathy with him due to his impossible predicament with Mike Ashley, but a minority now pouncing negatively on his very public demands for more backing on transfers (not even taking into account the zero investment on the Academy, training ground and St James Park).
A typical example was Richard Keys on Friday:
“Shut up Rafa – or walk – which is your right. “The club will survive you.
“Mike Ashley isn’t going to change for you. He was right last season – you had more than enough.”
A lot of other people are also, bizarrely, using the relative success of last season AGAINST Rafa Benitez.
I think that with the small net spend that was allowed last summer, plus no buys allowed in the January, and the level of squad Newcastle already had, there would have been a 95% chance of relegation under any other manager (who Mike Ashley would/could have appointed).
The players of course deserve credit for responding to the manager’s direction and passion BUT Rafa Benitez was surely at least 75% of the reason why Newcastle survived last season.
Now the likes of Richard Keys and others are turning around and basically saying, ‘look, Newcastle were the 10th best team last season, the same group of players should at worst only drop a couple of places, so what’s the big problem?’
The truth is something very different, with Newcastle being deep in relegation trouble for the first eight months of the season and ending up with a points total as high as 44, due to a key combination of Rafa’s expertise, almost no major injury issues, and big helpings of luck at times.
For starters, 44 points is the lowest ever total to get a top half finish in the Premier League, and if results had gone wrong on the final day, Newcastle could have finished as low as 15th.
Also, most of the football was negative and poor to watch but only because Rafa had no choice. With such a limited squad, the manager had to try and battle it out and eke out points, especially against others at the bottom.
On top of that, the survival was based on two smallish runs of games/form, when Rafa Benitez managed to get players as a team, performing above themselves.
After two defeats Rafa motivated his players to then go on a seven match run which featured four wins and two draws. Between 26 August and 21 October, Newcastle beat West Ham, Swansea, Stoke, and Crystal Palace, all struggling teams who also battled against relegation all season. Rafa’s game plan really worked dividends as we edged past them, West Ham the only really decisive win.
Then from 11 February to 15 April, Rafa conjured up another seven game run of form, this time five wins and a draw that took us to safety. This run being massively down to the initial impact Dubravka and Kenedy gave us – wins over Man Utd, Leicester, Arsenal, Southampton and Huddersfield following. The fact that this group of players played above themselves was summed up, when that run was followed by poor late season defeats against Watford, West Brom, Everton and Tottenham.
The bottom line is that you simply can’t rely on that same group of players hitting anywhere near the same heights over a whole season, without additional significant investment in the team/squad
Actually, it sums it up if when you take away those two runs of seven games, the other 24 matches saw only three wins and 16 defeats. The three victories being close wins at both West Ham and Stoke, as well as that end of season finale when Chelsea totally failed to turn up.
It WAS an achievement to get 44 points and finish 10th, and the Newcastle fans rightly celebrated, BUT only really because it was such a triumph against the odds as Rafa Benitez had performed a minor miracle with the squad that he had.
Holding up that tenth placed finish as something to beat Rafa Benitez about the head with, is just so wrong.
He is demanding proper investment in the squad to give Newcastle the best chance of staying up and some kind of opportunity to maybe match last season’s points total and league position.
He is not, as the likes of Sam Allardyce and Richard Keys would have you believe, demanding unrealistic extra cash to try and get Newcastle moving on towards that top six, or even top eight.
Burnley finished seventh last season with 54 points and I would be amazed if any Newcastle fan thinks this current team/squad has the remotest chance of matching that points total/league position. even the same with Everton who were eighth on 49 points last time, minimal/zero opportunity for this NUFC squad to match that.
However, if Rafa Benitez had been given the same transfer backing this summer as Fulham, then who knows what he/we could have done?
Instead, the Newcastle manager is once again scratching around for bargains and with Adam Armstrong now also moving out and adding a couple of million to the total, Mike Ashley is currently sitting on a transfer surplus of some £27m+ this summer on buys v sales.
Rafa Benitez is most definitely the answer, not the problem, at this club. It is pretty much everything else at Newcastle United that is rotten under Ashley and ruining any chance of NUFC once again moving forwards.