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Opinion

Leaving Love Island

2 years ago
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The inevitable happened and Rafa Benitez left Newcastle United this week.

He can look back on doing a very good job under difficult circumstances with very difficult people.

While he pointed to the reason that the owner didn’t share his vision for the future of Newcastle, it was probably only Benitez who wasn’t aware of that from the very start. Myself, I was holding out in the hope that Ashley would see a manager completely capable at the helm and compromise a bit on his plan, whatever that plan is.

From the outside, what businessman wouldn’t be prepared to compromise even slightly with someone who is doing such an obviously good job that the club is over-achieving given its budget and the owner is getting a much easier life because of it?

As the cricket saying goes, “the sun is shining, bat on.” Ashley’s version seems to be more “the sun is shining, sh.. on.”

The two most poignant bits of journalism that I read about Rafa leaving Love Island, were some Sky bod who said that “Benitez had to leave because he is far too big for NUFC in its current state” and the club’s statement that “it has not been possible and will not be possible to reach agreement”.

The club statement confirms Benitez’s own belief that what the Spaniard was asking for could not be delivered as it was simply too ambitious and the club don’t seem to mind people knowing that.

The Sky statement suggests that what the Spaniard was asking for was just what any club who wanted to compete at the level they should be would require.

It seems inevitable now that Rafa was going to leave, there was always too much distance between the main players and a lack of willingness to compromise from those in charge. Looking back, I don´t know where I got the hope from that it would be different.

What happens next is anyone’s guess. Benitez has already moved on to China. I don’t blame him and I don’t believe for one minute that he set that up quietly to leave United in the lurch. Most who know him say that his wage is a driving factor behind his choices but in the same vein, you get what you pay for and if you don’t pay a top wage you don’t get a top man. It looks from the outside like he took that job because he wasn’t going to get what he wanted at NUFC, not that he used NUFC to drive up the offers from competitors.

Either way, he could probably do with being away from the UK for a while and we could do without him being a reminder of what could have been. As for our next manager, talk of anyone with real ambition is as pointless as hoping that Rafa would stay under the same circumstances. Vieira, Mourinho, Wenger, Martinez, Eddie Howe…none of them will be a manager under Ashley, especially Mourinho.

‘Jose: If he couldn’t win at SJP with Chelsea’s team he won’t be able to do it with ours’

Someone out of work is far more likely to get the job, someone with nothing to lose, no wonder the likes of Ranieri and Moyes are interested. Whoever gets the job, the length of the contract will be just as revealing as the personnel. A short contract points to a takeover being possible and hope of ending Ashley’s ownership. A long contract leaves the fans with a stark choice of supporting the team, a new manager and through them the owner, as they have done during this and many other similar disappointments, or joining the chorus of voices trying to organise a protest and/or boycott. That has never been an easy choice for many Newcastle fans and it is not going to be an easy one now.

‘A successful Boycott’

Another person who has left the club is Mo Diame. That’s about it really, not much more to say than that. He started slowly, played his part in keeping us in the Premier League but had to leave if we wanted to improve. We had to replace him with someone better. I’m not sure where the club stands with that now. The likelihood is that in letting him go, Benitez had a plan for replacing him but that will be out the window now. Normally at this point you would say to the player “Good luck and thanks for all of your efforts” but given his inconsistencies it is probably just best to say “Good luck and thanks for that game where you made Pogba look like a mug.”

Ayoze Perez has also left the club and moved on to Leicester. Whether that is the big move the player has been banging on about in the press is debatable but good luck to him. He always gave his best, at the reported £30million the club are getting a decent price for him and we can all look forward to watching a 15% stake in Marks and Spencers playing up front next season. With Joselu, who despite everyone’s best efforts, hasn’t left yet.

In other news…

A new kit that I won’t buy was released.

The Academy coaching staff all got a re-shuffle and some who had been promoted look like they are immediately getting promoted again to coach the first team.

Joining the club structure after a few Ameobi-free years, Shola became our Head of Loans. Next time I see him I’ll be asking him how a club that has made a profit in transfer fees over the past twelve years has also managed to double its debt. Oh, not those sorts of loans, well I suppose the loaning of our future starlets from some dilapidated training shack to somewhere where the toilet doors shut properly can only be a good thing. And who better to manage it all than someone who successive managers tried and failed to get rid of.

‘Shola: Never really left’

Away from the club, of our ex-heroes, former player Didi Hamann this week pleaded not guilty to a count of assault and anyone who saw him play will no doubt agree that he must be innocent your honour. He flinched his way through a season at SJP, fine player with the ball at his feet but not the man you would want next to you in the trenches.

Ameobi brother Sammy also gained worthwhile employment, signing for Forest for a year after leaving Bolton on a free transfer. Another frustratingly spineless but gifted player, he had only been at Forest for a couple of days before he cost the manager and first team coach their jobs. Welcome to Ameobi World.

Jonathan Woodgate became a manager and I have no doubt that he will do a good job at Middlesboro, perhaps as good as Lee Bowyer who decided to stay at Charlton and signed a new one-year contract. The two will face each other in the Championship dugout next season, let’s hope there is no night out afterwards.

Finally, one of our old managers was representing England at Soccer Aid last month. It isn’t clear if ‘Big’ Sam Allardyce offered any advice on how to get around any immigration issues during the Charity weekend but his side lost on penalties to a Harry Redknapp managed World XI who all successfully claimed asylum in the UK straight after. Soccer Aid 2019 raised nearly £7million for UNICEF, though it is unclear how much of that made it past the two managers and was later handed over at a special presentation round the back of Watford services.

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