There is little doubt the effect Rafa Benitez has had on our football club since first arriving in March 2016.

He has been backed to the hilt from the moment he walked through the door from everyone in the stands, shame the boardroom doesn’t follow suit.

He has been put up with Keegan and Robson as one of the great Newcastle managers of modern times and I think I am safe in saying few of us would disagree. What is intriguing about the comparison though is that Rafa’s style of football is arguably on the other end of the spectrum to Keegan’s philosophy of football- which can be boiled down to ‘attack at all costs’. Even Robson, whilst not been at the Keegan level of attacking approach, would be seen by most as a far less defensive manager than Benitez.

Rafa is pragmatic to the core, and always focused on keeping a game as tight as possible, even if this means sacrificing potential attacking weapons. Putting the need for tight matches into context, in the first half of his spell with us (the last 10 games of 15-16 & his first full season) we only lost by more than one goal on three occasions (Wolves, Fulham & Ipswich, all in the Championship season). Even bringing in last season in the Premier League there were only six occasions we lost by more than one goal. This is no coincidence.

In our short dark 15 months under Carver & McClaren, we were involved in 15 games where we lost by more than one goal. This shift toward focusing on getting the defensive structure right, has given us the platform to return and survive in the Premier League. To me there is nothing wrong with this footballing philosophy.

Recently, I read a pre-international break review from fans of all twenty premier league clubs. As part of the standard survey of questions, each fan was asked “What is the (insert club name) way.” In other words, what is your club’s overall footballing philosophy?

The Newcastle fan who was asked, responded with “Scintillating attacking football built around number nines who’ll bang the goals in, week in, week out”, which to many is a fair answer.

It is worth noting though that the majority of the other clubs also responded with either of the words ‘attacking’ or ‘attractive’, at the core of their assumed philosophy. Very few seemed to actually pose realistic responses.

Of course, as football fans we all want to see our club winning, and if they can do it playing exciting ‘sexy’ football, then even better. The reality is though few clubs are able to stick to traditions of possession or attacking based philosophies. Even West Ham, one of the few clubs that seemed to be able to have a genuine claim to such traditions, are now mocked among some fans of rival clubs for banging on about ‘the West Ham way’. Only a few seemed to be realistic in their clubs traditions. The Leicester City fan described the Foxes way as “Fast, frenetic, direct and in-your-face: I like to call it ‘wasp football.” This was probably as honest an assessment as we got, with no mention of possession or attractive football.

It is forgotten that the most attractive football of all is surely winning?

Is this really such a big problem? A point I have consistently made, each time Rafa’s tactics against Man City take a bashing, is that there are hundreds of different ways to win a football match and not one should be considered right above all others. That’s what makes the game endlessly intriguing particularly at the highest level. To me, little is wrong with defensive tactics and getting a stable base to play from when it gets results. And it was certainly the foundation for our quite remarkable 10th place finish last season. It should be also worth pointing out that when looking at the wider history of our club – attacking, entertaining football has only relatively rarely graced SJP.

Of course, the major exception is the brilliant era of the first Keegan reign and perhaps the amount of supporters brought up on this brand of football is now felt when so many of that generation talk of a history of attacking, entertaining, gung-ho football.

If your first memory of a Newcastle match was in the early nineties I can understand this viewpoint, but for many it’s not the case. My uncle, who was up for the Brighton game, commented that only 8-9 of his 50 years supporting Newcastle have seen predominantly attacking football, and for fans of that generation an attractive style seems less relevant. Even Joe Harvey, a club legend and the last manager to deliver a major trophy to St James Park, produced sides that were fundamentally hard-working, but not focused on being seen as easy on the eye. The brilliance of Malcolm Macdonald in the early seventies probably flatters the legacy of the team style-wise, mainly because Macdonald was not only a brilliant scorer of goals but also scored some absolutely beautiful goals, particularly when Terry Hibbitt was also involved.

Herein lies a part of ‘the Newcastle way’ most of us would agree on. Regardless of the tactical style and technical ability of the team, we are headed by a powerful, ruthless number nine up front. This is our history and tradition, and the manager of Newcastle United, whoever it is, should always try and accommodate this in the team. In the present-day Newcastle United it seems lacking. Salamon Rondon appears a potentially useful loan signing, but has not been on the pitch anywhere near enough to satisfy the traditions of a Newcastle number nine. Having him back may be a good step to Rafa working a way to get us off the foot of the table.

I know the supporters at all football clubs appear to be changing, but when I am in the heart of the ground as I was on Saturday for the Brighton game, I don’t believe the people around me are turning up expecting or demanding a team relentlessly attacking from minute one. Most of us are sharp enough to realise it is not possible with the current squad anyway, thanks to underinvestment.

For me, the crowd still has a core wish to see effort and grit. They can cope with people giving the ball away and trying things that don’t come off. What we want to see is the eleven in black and white run as hard as possible for ninety minutes, and to be honest, I believe the current crop is at least doing that.

The question of the philosophy is an important one, as one day Mike Ashley will no longer own our football club, the traditions and values of club and city will outlast him. As my favourite banner from a few seasons ago said, “we don’t demand a team that wins, we demand a club that tries.. The effort to win above everything else, maybe that really is ‘the Newcastle way’.

You can follow the author on Twitter @JackLaceySport

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  • Kenny

    Rafa may as well not be here, there has been no improvement in any area of the club, the guy is wasting his life away at Newcastle & it is all down to the Fat Rat

  • Themoscow72

    There is one thing for sure this team tries unlike the last two that got us relegated two teams with a lot of talent as well. We finished tenth because of the balance in the team and hard graft. This year we have lacked a centre forward and that has cost us dear together with injuries and poor refs. I have seen one team better than us this season and that was only marginal Man City. We have given all the other teams a run for their money that is for sure.

    • Kenny

      Course we have, that`s why we are bottom
      😂😂😂😂😂

      • East Durham Mag

        Ffs what an idiot that daft [email protected] is.

        • Kenny

          Not all there that is for sure

          • Themoscow72

            Was this morning when I checked in the mirror keep the faith.

          • Wezza

            I’m convinced that troll is a KBA troll. He throws the odd line in about Jezza to make us think he is a Lee brother troll.
            I’ve blocked him for good this time he is boring.

          • Themoscow72

            So are the Ashley Out brigade same things every day.
            Blocking me is your loss not mine.

      • Danimal

        I was feeling a bit disorientated at first, as he managed to type four or five lines without saying anything ridiculous. Thankfully he recovered the situation, with interest, right at the end.

        • Themoscow72

          Well who has been better than us this season. For example Chelsea only won with a dodgey pen and an own goal. Man Utd would have been out of sight if we were given the pen. Spurs won by a lick of paint on the goal line. Leicester never had a shot till they were given a dodgey pen and Brighton were given a corner that never was and were rubbish. Simetimes I think you lot support a different team.

          • Danimal

            I support Newcastle United, which is why I despise Mike Ashley. How about you? I would agree we’ve been unlucky in some of the games, due mainly to Rafa’s much maligned defensive approach keeping us in with a shout. However, the gulf in quality has been plain to see and we never look like recovering from a setback, due to lack of options and lack of match-changers in this unnecessarily threadbare squad.

        • JohnnyH

          Last time I looked every other team in the league is better than us.
          What a 🛎 🔚

      • Kneebotherm8

        We should really be in the top 3………😂

  • Leazes.

    Why has the Author got the name Jack Watt….

    …….and his @tag is for Jack Lacey-Hatton?

    • Kenny

      i`m sure you will find the answer, best detective on here

      • Leazes.

        Its the same guy.

        He has removed the Man United photo from facebook and changed his site.

        • Kenny

          😂 so he has

          • Leazes.

            And he’s just changed his name on here…. now I know that he’s writing under a few names as well.

  • Sumit Sengupta

    This concept of a particular ‘way’ is confusing. A team adopts its playing philosophy according to the manager/head coach at helm. For example, a team plays attacking under one manager. They do well but then slip a bit and in today’s world, the manager gets the sack and a new one is hired. The club wants safety first and so the new guy chosen is someone who prefers defensive game and grinding out the results. What is the philosophy of this club then? Isn’t it based on what position the club is in and who the club puts in charge?

    • Leazes.

      The Philosophy of a club is a perception over time not an individual managers preferences to help secure safety in a season.

      You could say that the guy who is quoted is referring to the post war United which won nowt except the FA Cup on three occasions, and a certain centre forward called Milburn set up the culture and the Myth of the Newcastle Number Nine…. even Llambias was keen to hark back to that nostalgia when renaming Shearer’s bar….

      …the Chronicle panders to nostalgia and the centre forward hero is the only thing it can latch onto so has perpetuated the old style in the modern era… to the detriment of the club.

      …..A one star team!

      ….its also the kop out for unambitious owners, who stuck with it. The reason it is a Kop out is football is a team game and in the modern era United threw out of the window the competitive sport where the goal is winning things in favour of the cheap option the star performer….the headline act…. the center forward…the entertainer….

      …it didn’t matter if you lost…the point was to see a show and go for a pint….

      that’s why the fans sit on their hand…they’re not there for a sporting contest, they’re there to be entertained…. they aren’t so much football fans as groupies.

      The chronicle are still there pushing out that philosophy!

      They’ve killed the club!

      • Sumit Sengupta

        Thanks for this detailed explanation. Not sure if I just want to be entertained at the cost of not winning anything for years but I understand if people feel good with that ‘way’. Thanks again.

        • Leazes.

          Its an alternative when your club is in a league with Manchester United, Liverpool and a few others who are professional clubs and actually try to win….

          …. the entertainment for those clubs is secondary but comes as a result of achieving the primary aim and showboating.

          Newcastle United were the first club the be credited with a million people through the turnstiles…. those in charge didn’t need ambition.

  • X,WHY,Y MAN.

    The philosophy of Newcastle United under Mike Ashley is : “The Game Of Football Is Played On A Balance Sheet.”

    Yes, The action takes place a long way away from the pitch and exists on a spread sheet !

    • Leazes.

      That’s about the sum of things…..

      We’ve gone from Football to Entertainment to balance sheets.

  • killymag

    The general idea of attending a football match is to be entertained. Under Raffa this has never happened , and never will you only have to look at his record he has he has never played expressive attacking football . In the past fans would be screaming for his head as they did with the past incumbent who had the same philosophy Fat Sham . There is a saying you can only pi#s with the c#ck that you have got you cant use somebody else,s . As we are unlikely to attract Pep , Klopp , zidane or there like where do we go

    • Leazes.

      Wrong!

      • killymag

        After having been duped all these years i shall take up a new and more exiting hobby like watching F#ckin paint dry

    • Billmag

      Who below the top six play’s exciting attractive football, sky is losing customers in there droves because the football is boring to watch.

  • Carverlier football

    Newcastle’s philosophy: create as much advertising exposure and commercial revenue for SD as possible, on the least possible outlay

  • Rev

    What do the results tell us? Would i like to see all out attacking, exciting football – yes. Would i be happy with a bit of everything so long as we win – yes. Would i pay to watch keep it tight, get a goal on the break, but in reality lose or draw the majority of games and admit the philosophy is hope three teams do worse over a seaon – no. Anyone compared Rafa’s record of WDL with the other teams around us, for example Brighton? My guess would be fans want the system which provides the most points. And please don’t bring the Owner, funding into the answer. I get that, so do the managers of Huddersfield, Cardiff, Burnley, Leicester etc.

    • Dillon Tovak

      Burnley, Leicester and Huddersfield have all backed their manager more than NUFC.

  • paco

    To even suggest that there’s a philosophy – not withstanding the funding restrictions – is nonsense. Our championship season – at best – the football was efficient

    • Leazes.

      Oh no there is a philosophy….. it has driven(sic) the club backwards relentlessly, even with John Hall in charge it was always the same.

      The advertisement for the sale of boxes at the revamped stadium pointed towards football as an first entertainment not a sport….

      …’come and watch OUR YOUNG MAN (Andy Cole) Entertain you’…. they gave up competing before they began, had one go and reverted top the clubs underlying philosophy to put on a show…. long since gone under Ashley…. he even got rid of the one star system for a no star system.

      We don’t compete in the league and haven’t for a long time, its just about the fleece of the audience now, with the chronicle still dragging out the highlighted acts of the past to give the embers of the warm glow of nostalgia a blast of the bellows.

  • Wezza

    There is no footballing philosophy.
    We are a cash cow for one greedy FCB to plunder, asset strip and harm for decades to come – now out of spite.

  • Mrkgw

    Rafa isn’t up there with Keegan and Robson. No way – not yet at least. Perhaps for the younger wave of incumbents but for me, absolutely not. I refuse to accept the bland and mundane tactics thrust upon us. The stubborness in playing inepts such as Joselu, Diame, and signing of non-runners such as Rondon and Ki. And, formerly Slimani. For heavens sake. It’s a shambles. Yes, MA is the chief culprit but I refuse to laud it upon a Manager who has clearly lost the plot.

    • Leazes.

      How much would Rafa have to spend in order to have a squad like Keegan or Robson…..?

      • Kenny

        £100m-£150m, at least

        • Leazes.

          and the rest.

          • Kenny

            Aye, your are right. £100m plus for Al alone

      • Mrkgw

        Think Kenny has hit the tip of the iceberg there but it’s relative. Football has changed, fees, greedy agents the lot. The brand attracted a host of stars back then because the club was going somewhere. Now, its the cesspit of the Premiership. Awful. MA should hang his head in shame.

        • Leazes.

          Its not even the comparison we should be looking at…. How much do we need to spend to be a club constantly in the top 5 or 6….

          ….that’s the measure of Ashleys tenure!

    • Billmag

      Give owa man if he had the chance to buy a decent striker, a decent number 10, and an attacking left back you would see an altogether different style of play, he has never been given a level playing field by this scumbag of an owner and until he does I will always back him. And by the way why don’t you just let it go that Rafa didn’t fancy Mitro you’ve had a bee in your bonnet about Rafa for well over a season now.

      • Mrkgw

        Forget Mitro, would you trust Rafa with say, £30m of your money? Based upon his former picks – Manquillo, Lazaar, Gamez, Ki, Murphy, Atsu, Slimani, Rondon?

        • Billmag

          Absolutely I would give him £100ml to get the 3 position’s I have mentioned, he’s had to shop in the bargain basement for player’s that’s not good enough for our club, do you not think he’s performed miracles getting us promoted at the first time of asking and finishing 10th in Premiere, the man can only do so much, it would be interesting to actually know exactly who you think could do a better job.

        • Kenny

          Rafa picks, not in this life. the regimes buys 100%

        • East Durham Mag

          Rafas picks? 4th or 5th choice at best.

    • GC

      I’m not a younger incumbent and grew up in the Keegan/Robson days, and way before but what could KK and SBR have done with this team? Football has changed for the worse.

      • Mrkgw

        The pair of them would have had a fair go at sides. Lets face it, what did parking the bus achieve during the opening games other than to demoralise the squad? Granted, Ashley is responsible but Rafa’s approach is flawed. Problem is that supporters buy into it all.

  • JohnnyH

    Lot more anti-Rafa posts lately, Bishop must have had his ar$e kicked.

    • Kenny

      Idiots

    • Billmag

      Beggars belief it really does.

  • kingfisher

    There isn’t a manager anywhere who has not made mistakes in either buying players or tactics and Rafa is no different. Of course, he has to arrange his tactics and game plan according to what Ashley has allowed him to spend, and even if he had zillions at his disposal, of course he could still buy some plonkers.

    The trouble is that by deciding (he does have a choice) to play such negative and boring football that eventually (even the 50,000) may become not only anti Ashley but ( as seems to be happening now) anti Rafa.

    Surely none of the 50,000 ( not even Themoscow72) can say they enjoy the football on offer at the moment?
    Football is an entertainment business and if you paid good money to go and see a film or play etc, and you didn’t enjoy it, the last thing you would do would be to pay to go to see it again, and again, and again etc, so why keep paying to watch rubbish football ?Oh yes I forgot it’s ” to support the team and not the regime” !!

  • kingfisher

    Leazes says below that the purpose of the club is to win things, sorry but I don’t agree Leazes. Yes it would be nice to win something, but not at all costs. Not playing defensive unattractive football and sneaking 1-0 wins.
    For me, football is an entertainment industry.A prime example would be The Entertainers era, we won nothing, but what a great ride we had and what a fantastic time to be a Newcastle United supporter, and If I had to chose between winning a cup playing rubbish boring football or having another “entertainers” era then for me, it’s a no brainer. Although under this regime I suspect both options are a long way off!

    • Billmag

      Would you not like a dull and boring 1-0 Cup Final win, I certainly would after 4 Cup Finals and 1 charity shield that’s 5 games and seeing 1 goal scored by my team and getting trounced in 4 of those games. So yes I would take a dull 1-0 win any time so 100% disagree with you.

      • kingfisher

        What I meant Billmag was going through a whole season watching horrible football with no enjoyment.Of course you are absolutely right in saying I would take a 1-0 win in a Cup Final, I think we would all take boring low scoring cup games if it meant we actually won something.
        Iv’e been to 3 Cup Finals ,well two and a half really because in 1969 I was at the first leg of the Fairs Cup final at SJP, so way back then, even though we won a cup, most fans never got to see a Newcastle Captain lifting a cup. My other two finals were the FA cup in 1974 ( humiliated again) and the League cup in 1976 ,beaten again but at least I can say Iv’e actually seen a Newcastle player score in a Cup Final at Wembley. 🤣

        • Billmag

          Yeah King beaten by an overhead kick it could have gone anywhere, saying that we had some good night’s in Soho that’s the only thing that was good after visiting that 💩hole of a place called London.

          • Leazes.

            I believe London has had a lot of money spent on it since we called it the smoke….certainly more than our region.

          • Billmag

            Definitely in the last 25+years since canary wharf was built, saying that Newcastle is unrecognisable compared to the seventies, at least now you don’t have to give the kids a quid to watch your car when you went to the match.

      • Leazes.

        You’ve got it….too many havn’t

        but unfortunately we have ‘institutionalised philosophy of failure’ which is fed into the mainstream by a paternalistic press who misrepresent United fans…. repeating all they wan’t is entertainment and to give their best shot….

        ….s*d that…. I want a wholesale change of view in order to analysis a sporting event, not a drama or pantomime.

        The chronicle are the culprits of holding the club in a straightjacket of thought that their proforma reporting can’t break out from.

    • Leazes.

      The purpose of a football club is sporting contest…. the Chronicle and every regime have entertainment as its priority abdicating its PRIME purpose!….

      I would also use the ‘entertainers’ as my argument…. Titles and trophies go into the record books…. the so called entertainers was not unique to this club… Liverpool throughout the seventies attacked and attacked…. they won things and it was Cavalier football it frightened those who went to Anfield to defend….. those titles are still there but the memories of the games gone.

      ….it is a sport, unfortunately the Chronicle want something different here, this is a huge problem at this club.

      People have asked why United never win anything….. I’ve just told you why, and it will stay like this until the ethos changes within the club….and on the terraces too!

      The driving political philosophy is stronger here than anywhere….ingrained into the mindset. We have huge handicaps to overcome within the game externally but we have to start with ourselves….

      ….Sport is first Competition, and that is about winning and having a winning mentality.

    • Andy Mac

      Football clubs compete in leagues. We need to compete in any league we find ourselves in. If we manage that it’ll mean Fatman has died !

    • DeadToiler

      Give me boring winning any day. Losing is not entertaining it’s depressing.