Newcastle’s plight over the last decade has fallen far below the standards the supporters expect of them. Barring an incredible fifth-placed finish under Alan Pardew in the 2011/2012 season, it has been pretty grim viewing for the Geordie faithful. There is no doubt that the Magpies have underachieved as they constantly hover around the relegation places. On two occasions in the past ten years, the flirting with disaster has turned catastrophic as the unthinkable has happened and the Toon have been relegated to the Championship.
When Mike Ashley finalized his purchase of the club, it was after a decade – 1996 to 2006 – that saw Newcastle finish in the top five on five occasions, including a runner-up finish. When he took over, there was hope of more of the same – if not to go one better and lift their first Premier League trophy. Fast forward a decade to 2017 and two relegations later, it is clear to see the reason why Newcastle has not progressed.
Mike Ashley has made his mistakes and alienated himself from the majority of the support. You would have to travel far and wide to meet a more unpopular chairman. However, for all of the damage Ashley has done during his tenure, he may have also made the biggest appointment Newcastle has had for quite some time by convincing Rafa Benitez to take charge at Newcastle.
There was precious little Benitez could do to avoid relegation after being appointed when the damage was all but done during the 2015/2016 season. The Spaniard showed his class by sticking with Newcastle during relegation and then performing his magic by taking Newcastle up as champions at the first time of asking.
Now seven games into the season, Newcastle are currently in the top half and look more than up to the task that lies in wait over the next 31 games. Benitez is beginning to do to Newcastle what he has done everywhere else he has coached before by making them into a terrific footballing unit. That will be music to the ears of the Toon fans as under Benitez they will keep trending in the right direction. It isn’t only Benitez’s acumen as a football manager that has got them off to a very positive start but also his ability to inspire and motivate his players.
Mike Ashley has kept the purse strings tightly drawn and, because of that, he and Benitez have had their disagreements. The lack of transfer funds made available over the summer is showing just how good a manager Benitez is to be getting the best out of a side that hasn’t had nearly as much investment as the teams around them. His man management is worth another £50m worth of transfer funds to any owner.
The experienced Spaniard has already enjoyed two managerial stints in the Premier League with Liverpool, and then Chelsea when he stepped in to assist as interim manager for the Blues. Both were hugely successful and yielded silverware. If given time, he will be able to restore the competitive edge Newcastle had over the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. His track record in England is exceptionally good and the future for Newcastle looks a bright one.
The relationship Benitez has with teams and supporters that he used to be affiliated with illustrates everything you need to know about the popular Spaniard. When a managerial change occurs there is often a falling out as the fans turn on their former boss. This hasn’t seemed to have plagued Benitez and, instead, the only outpouring of emotion is love when he returns to former grounds he used to manage at. That is down to his ability to understand what the club means to its supporters. He always aligns himself with the clubs beliefs, history, and expectation. In essence, that is all a fan wants (along with constant winning) from a manager.
There is no better example than when Benitez arrived at Stamford Bridge to manage Chelsea until the end of the season in 2013. Being bitter rivals of Liverpool and the history they had recently experienced there was a lot of animosity towards Benitez. The Spaniard was still able to win the Europa League and put on one of the most professional displays seen under the circumstances he had to work in.
The relationship that Benitez has with the Newcastle fans is excellent and should continue to flourish as he carries on producing phenomenal results against the odds. The work will continue this week as Benitez side looks to build on the three wins they have recorded so far. They are well poised to make an assault on the fixture list once the international breaks ends.
Three of the four games they play after the break are against teams that are beneath them and two of them are at home. A real chance is presenting itself to Newcastle in the form of getting closer to the top 5 by the time Christmas arrives. Benitez will be taking it one game at a time but the opportunity is there for the taking after negotiating the opening part of the season and finding his team in the top 10.
As for the long-term prospects for Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle, there is cause for renewed optimism on Tyneside. If Mike Ashley backs Benitez there is every possibility that Newcastle will become one of the Premier League’s better sides and enjoy finishes higher up the table. He is undoubtedly the best man to awake Newcastle Football Club. Benitez will provide the right management on the field; it is up to Ashley to lead from the top in order for Newcastle to fulfil its unbridled potential.
If Newcastle were to turn on the class and style then a sneaky jaunt into the top four is not unheard of under Benitez come the end of the season. With the likes of Matt Ritchie pulling the strings in midfield and Lascelles finding the back of the net with ease, a run of wins is very possible. Ritchie sits out this round of crucial international fixtures after picking up a knock against Liverpool.
It’s a big blow to Gordon Strachan as his Scotland side are in a must-win situation as they try to qualify for the playoffs. If they can qualify for Russia 2018, Newcastle’s Matt Ritchie will be a big player for them at football’s biggest showpiece as they try to complete mission impossible and lift the 18 karat gold trophy. Oddschecker provides the latest on potential World Cup winners for next summer’s event, which is drawing ever nearer, placing Germany, Brazil, and Spain at the top of the odds.
Benitez will need a few breaks along the way as his key players stay well clear of injury. With a squad of his size, one or two injuries could prove disastrous. It has been so far so good for now and if they can arrive at the January transfer market with a clean bill of health and strong league position then Ashley will most likely give Benitez the chance to bring in a few players.
Newcastle are in the best position they have been in recent years to be able to begin changing the narrative associated with the club. With Benitez leading the way the opportunity is there to join England’s elite again and have those glorious European nights return. The fans have waited patiently and can team up with Rafa Benitez to make St James a stronghold in the North East. Benitez’s stock is one of the highest valued in the league. He has coached some of the world’s finest and most historic teams. The Spaniard can now write Newcastle’s most successful chapter yet.