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Opinion

Sly digs like this one at Rafa Benitez from a Newcastle United player have to stop

1 month ago
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As Newcastle fans, we are constantly being told that it is time to forget about Rafa Benitez.

That he is now history and we need to just get on with it and support the new head coach (not manager) and the team etc etc.

However, when Mike Ashley and the club are determined to still push their PR offensive into the season, attacking both Rafa Benitez and the supporters, it kind of undermines that argument.

Neither does it help when the club is so prepared to try and get as many players as possible to make disparaging remarks about Rafa Benitez, as the club try to prop up the latest team boss who should never have been considered for the job.

The latest Newcastle player to have crossed a line, in my opinion is Isaac Hayden (see below) who has said: ‘Under previous managers we have been a lot more defensive and solid but still ended up losing games. We lost tight games when being defensive. But against Arsenal we took the game to them and took a few more gambles. It paid off to an extent. If it wasn’t for good saves from their keeper and our final balls it could have been different.’

Previous managers? Well I’m not sure who all of these managers are, as Hayden was signed by Rafa Benitez and indeed arguably he has still only played under one Newcastle manager, seen as Mike Ashley has once again downgraded the job to head coach, Steve Bruce only having the authority to train and pick the team, with no say on transfers.

As for Sunday’s match, we all want to see positives but don’t try to tell us that this was any great improvement. Newcastle did ok in the first half against a seriously weakened Arsenal team, missing most of their star players, yet Leno didn’t have a serious save to make. Apart from the goal Newcastle did generally defend ok but until after the goal and subs were made, Aubameyang was the sole Arsenal threat and he scored the winner.

Newcastle players who weren’t getting games under Rafa Benitez, it is little wonder they have welcomed the change and it is easy to forget that Isaac Hayden had been totally sidelined with only one Premier League start in seven months (ironically the 2-1 home defeat to Arsenal in September 2018) before injuries got him back into the team in December. Also, when Isaac Hayden was desperate to leave for family reasons and a deal was set up for him to go (reported to be Brighton) it was Rafa Benitez who blocked it because he wasn’t able or allowed to get a suitable replacement.

I like Isaac Hayden and he did really well in the second half of last season but you can’t have it all ways.

After the transfer window ended, he gave a load of positives as to why he had stayed and admitted that his personal circumstances were no longer as big a factor in needing to move south.

However, less than a week before transfer deadline, Isaac Hayden speaking to BBC Newcastle on 3 August 2019 and was asked if he was staying:

“I couldn’t answer that question right now.

“I think it’s deadline day on Thursday, so you know, in football anything can happen.

“I’m not going to stand here and say to you: ‘This is me, I am 100% staying here’…”

“I don’t know what can happen.”

My take on it is, that if a club had come in that Isaac Hayden wanted to go to and who were prepared to pay enough money to satisfy Mike Ashley, then the midfielder would have left.

That doesn’t make him a bad person and who would blame anybody who left the Ashley circus BUT you can’t have it all ways.

The trouble is as well that Newcastle players talking so positively and saying how much better/great things are now under Steve Bruce, compared to before, well it is all meaningless until it is shown on the pitch.

I also get the impression that for some players who have spoken so favourably about the here and now, especially with regard to training, are genuinely enjoying it more BUT that is because Rafa Beniez was such a touch taskmaster and perfectionist, drilling the players so hard and often in what is expected of them. The kind of thing that maybe would have prevented the very poor goal that was conceded on Sunday and the chaos that was on show with so many players not knowing where they should be playing.

As for this negative Rafa and positive Bruce thing, the facts/stats simply say the complete opposite.

Before Sunday, these are the complete Premier League managerial records and as well as Rafa being streets ahead in terms of results, the stats say that his team score a lot more and Steve Bruce’s score far less than even JFK, Pardew, Allardyce and McClaren’s teams have in the top tier. In fact, any strength that the stats do show, is that Bruce’s team defend a bit better than those of the other poor to average former Newcastle managers (not Rafa or KK!).

Plus, when Almiron arrived and Rafa had more of a team that could attack, Newcastle scored 21 goals in the final 13 games, compared to 21 in the first 25 when he had more limited options.

Isaac Hayden speaking to the Shields Gazette:

“Our goalkeeper didn’t really have too many saves to make.

“That is credit to our defence and the way we defended.

“Under previous managers we have been a lot more defensive and solid but still ended up losing games.

“We lost tight games when being defensive.

“But against Arsenal we took the game to them and took a few more gambles.

“It paid off to an extent.

“If it wasn’t for good saves from their keeper and our final balls it could have been different.

“When a new manager comes in it is always difficult for himself and the players.

“But I think the players have taken to him really well.

“They have understood the direction he wants to go in.

“A lot of the players respected Rafa – myself included.

“He was the one who brought me to the club.

“Everyone has respect for him but at the end of the day he chose to move on.

“We now have a new manager.

“As individuals we have to focus on the new era.

“We have exciting new players and it’s a fresh start for everyone.”

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