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Revealing words from Rafa Benitez ahead of Mike Ashley meeting – If only 6 weeks earlier

4 months ago
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Rafa Benitez takes charge of his last Newcastle United match on Sunday, the final one of his current three year contract anyway.

It would be nice to end the season with a victory, end it with a point more than last season.

However, we all know this isn’t the important end game.

Talking to the media ahead of that Fulham game, the big questions were of course all about Rafa Benitez’ future. Whether he indeed has one at St James Park?

You were never going to get the Newcastle United manager really going for it, giving us chapter and verse on this shambles of a football club under Mike Ashley. I’m sure we will get plenty of that if/when he leaves.

However, Rafa Benitez did tell/reveal plenty ahead of his meeting with Mike Ashley.

A meeting is expected sometime within the next ten or so days according to Rafa and he made clear it will be a waste of time if it is only Lee Charnley there, without Mike Ashley attending as well. The NUFC boss saying ‘If we have a meeting (to decide what will happen) at the end of the season, you know that the owner has to be around (and attend it).’

It is almost two months now since Mike Ashley asked for, and Rafa Benitez provided, the manager’s conditions for staying.

Rafa Benitez says Ashley and his minions are well aware of ‘my idea and my vision’ and he says ‘I am going to this meeting in a positive way.’

Many journalists have then picked this up and spin it to say Rafa Benitez is ‘positive’ about this meeting. That isn’t the way it sounds to me. For myself, it sounds like somebody who really wants to stay and has bent over backwards to give it a chance to still happen, but who is totally exasperated with the situation. Despite all the stupidity and refusal of Mike Ashley to get all of this sorted at any point over the past year or even before that, Rafa still willing to give the NUFC owner to grasp victory from the jaws of defeat.

Even if agreement can be reached at this very late stage, untold harm may already have been done. Time when Rafa Benitez should have been getting on with putting plans in place for signings, the summer, next season, all wasted.

The killer line from the manager that sums up the situation, was ‘Until you sit down and start talking, you will not know where you are’ when talking about his hopes of finally sitting down with Mike Ashley.

If this was six weeks ago and we were talking about an imminent meeting between owner and manager, with Mike Ashley having had a week or so to consider Rafa’s conditions for staying, then I would maybe have had real optimism.

If the will is/was there from Mike Ashley to change the way he runs the club in order to convince Rafa Benitez to stay, then the owner would surely have been looking to get it all sorted ASAP.

The truth of course is that Ashley has known for years, not weeks or months, what Rafa Benitez wants to happen. Asking for those conditions back in Marcc would have just been filling in the fine detail.

The very fact the NUFC owner has let this drag on and keep Rafa in limbo, is clearly yet another cheap trick from Mike Ashley to show who has the power.

I know you can never say never but at this stage for Ashley to suddenly change his position so far, to accommodate a manager who he has undermined transfer window after transfer window, takes some believing.

I hope I am wrong but as Rafa Benitez also said himself yesterday, key players have been asking him what is happening with the club and their futures, the manager saying he has been having to tell them that he can’t answer those questions until he knows what his future is…

The transfer window opens on Thursday, all of the key players including the likes of Salomon Rondon will have headed off by then with no idea of what is happening with the manager or Newcastle United, only seven weeks now until pre-season starts.

Even if belatedly Rafa Benitez is given realistic backing and convinced to stay, there is still a massive job to do this summer to get the club/squad in shape for next season.

The thought of that having to be done relying on a stooge yes man replacement in a new Mike Ashley circus performance, if Rafa and his coaching staff walk away and are followed out by Rondon and other key players, just doesn’t bear thinking about.

Rafa Benitez:

“If we have a meeting at the end of the season (to decide what will happen), you know that the owner has to be around (and attend it).

“If we are close and we have similar ideas, it will be easier.

“If not, maybe you have to keep talking, or maybe not…

“Until you sit down and start talking, you will not know where you are.

“My message has been very clear from day one.

“The potential of this club is there.

“Can we try to achieve what we want to achieve? Yes. I think we have to.

“Which is the way to do it? That is the key.

“I can say yes or no to a player but still I don’t control the finances.

“It is not that you can guarantee anything.

“It is not a question of whether I believe him (Mike Ashley) or not, it is about what we are trying to achieve.

“What do we have? Can we go here?

“I am going to this meeting in a positive way because we have that potential and we can do a lot of things better.

“If we do that, we will have more chance to be closer to the top ten.

“Do I think we can change everything in one window? Be in the top six? No.

“Can we get closer? Yes.

“We can head in the right direction and they know my idea and my vision.

“It is about how can we find a position where everyone is…I won’t say ‘totally happy’…

“But (a position) where you can manage and improve things.”

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