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Tyne Talk

Rafa Benitez sets out blueprint for growing a club – It could/should have been Newcastle United

2 weeks ago
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For Newcastle United fans, the big debate isn’t about whether Rafa Benitez is a better manager than Steve Bruce.

Indeed, if anybody was daft enough to want to debate that, it would be a very short discussion.

Instead, it was all about what it signified when Rafa Benitez was left with no alternative but to walk away this summer.

As he repeatedly said, it wasn’t about expecting Newcastle United to spend unrealistic amounts of money on first team players.

Obviously realistic funding was needed to help support the long-term project Rafa Benitez wanted to put into action BUT it was more to do with having the freedom and control to progress the whole club.

Often he talked about how Mike Ashley had frustrated the manager when he had his first choice signings lined up ahead of a transfer window and the club failed to sign them. With the transfer/loan fees not the big factor that would/should have stopped them happening.

Just as important, or even more so, Rafa Benitez wanted to revolutionise the whole club from top to bottom, to have proper investment in the club infrastructure, the long promised ‘state of the art’ training complex (which Mike Ashley said in 2013 was essential if Newcastle were going to be able to complete), instead of which Mike Ashley only allowed funding for the walls of the current set-up to be painted, as Rafa said after leaving this summer. The (now former) manager saying that Ashley had arranged for Rafa to meet the architects at the start of  his three year contract to outline changes he’d like to have made to the plans for the ‘imminent’ new training complex.

The Academy was key to Rafa’s plans moving forward, he wanted control of it and realistic funding to get it to a level of what other top clubs have. So that in the future Newcastle would be in the best place to regularly produce their own first team players, as well as buying in more experienced players,

In his latest piece with The Athletic (see below), Rafa Benitez has explained the challenges he faced when taking over at Liverpool.

The Spaniard detailing the steps that had to be put in place to grow the club.

Rafa Benitez declaring: ‘The big thing for us was having control of the academy after being there for four years. We changed a lot of things, including signing a young Raheem Sterling and so the club was growing at youth team level, too.’

The experienced manager explaining: ‘By the time serious money came into Liverpool, it meant they could compete with the other top teams because they had the structure organised, but that happened too late for us.’

Rafa isn’t trying to claim credit for the success Liverpool are now enjoying BUT he is explaining just how important it was to get the Academy right, as it has and is playing such a key role for Liverpool. Just look at how many quality players they have brought through, look at that League Cup 5-5 game against Arsenal last week and some of the young talent on show.

This isn’t claiming that Newcastle could/would do what Liverpool are achieving but it is about doing things right, backing the right people and investing properly in the future.

Instead, Newcastle will continue to lurch along from one season to the next with no long-term plan or proper investment in the future. Whilst pretty much every other club is trying their level best to grow and be stronger in the future, whether by expanding their stadium (or building a new one), investing in better training facilities, investing in the coaching set-up throughout the club. This is pretty much every club from Leicester to Bournemouth, we aren’t talking just about the Liverpools.

Rafa Benitez talking to The Athletic:

“Liverpool were a family club where more or less everything was in place and the only thing was to make it a little bit bigger or to have more money or to act quicker in some aspects, but the relationship between the people in positions of power was quite good. From there, it was step by step, winning things, improving.

“The big thing for us was having control of the academy after being there for four years.

“We changed a lot of things, including signing a young Raheem Sterling and so the club was growing at youth team level, too.

“By the time serious money came into Liverpool, it meant they could compete with the other top teams because they had the structure organised, but that happened too late for us.”

“Since then, Liverpool have had another change in ownership, they’ve added to the structure and invested and so, over time, they have competed with the others.

“You grow, you have success, you go into the Champions League, you earn more money, you attract new and richer sponsors, you increase the size of the stadium, more funds come in, you buy better players, you do things right and you improve.”

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