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Opinion

Mike Ashley sparks these four questions with release of Rafa Benitez departure statement

3 years ago
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I sit here trying to comprehend the club’s statement announcing that Rafa Benitez will not be renewing his contract for the upcoming season and I’m left with so many questions.

Is the takeover all but off?

Are we seeing the club reverting to type and not supporting those who have the ability to take it forward?

Is the takeover still happening but either they or Rafa do not want to work with each other?

Or is Rafa just not signing a contract for the club under its current owner and the minute we get a takeover confirmation, there will also be another to announce Rafa as manager?

When it comes to Newcastle United, I’ve been the eternal optimist. I have genuinely spent every close season for as long as I can remember giving the owner the benefit of the doubt and assuring myself that he will see how little the club really needs to make the next step up…

A little more experience on the field, a little more on the training facilities perhaps, a few more quality additions to the squad to cover when our best players aren’t on their game. This close season has been no different.

Mike Ashley is clearly on a spending spree, gobbling up failing high street chains like the pints he loves to down. That has fuelled my presumption that he has finally become a motivated seller, looking at what else he can do with the £350 million he would receive for the club.

So many well respected people “in the know” have seemed more convinced than ever that the takeover was real. Even the silence from both the club and Rafa (pictured above when he first arrived to take on the job back in March 2016) has encouraged my hope. In my head, it made sense:

Why would he sign Ashley’s no doubt substandard contract when he could negotiate more of what the club needs with new, proactive owners? If the club is set to change hands, there is no need for his current employers to even discuss a new contract. As I understand it, the Dubai working week begins on a Sunday, which falls in line with the anticipated start of the Monochrome Acquisitions company accounts beginning on 30th June. Don’t worry, I’ve been saying, we just need to wait a few more days.

But then I read this afternoon’s bombshell and my optimism shattered. Surely, if the takeover was imminent, there is nothing to gain by announcing that Rafa is leaving?

The club have remained silent since takeover speculation broke, so why make a statement now if in reality whatever they say is an irrelevance with the club about to be under new ownership?

I am afraid it appears it is increasingly likely we are all about to be fed the most used line under the Ashley regime – “we couldn’t get it over the line”. Not just Rafa’s contract, but the takeover too.

If this is the case, then where do we go from here?

The calibre of manager the club can attract, running season to season as we have been, is nowhere near the quality we had with Rafa. There are few managers who could galvanise a group of players in the way he has for the past two seasons, to so massively over achieve.

Beyond the manager, will the likes of Almiron and Schar remain playing in relegation limbo under the likes of bookies favourite Garry Monk? I doubt it. So in that respect we not only lose the heart of the team in Rafa, but also its spine in some of the players who deserve more than playing to try and beat relegation season in, season out.

If this takeover doesn’t happen, as looks extremely likely, then we are in massive trouble. With all due respect to the likes of Garry Monk, they are not good enough for a club the size of Newcastle United.

For the first season since Joe Kinnear was here, I have no optimism for what is set to come.

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