We have awakened into a Brave New World. Whether this is based on a psychotic break that has finally happened due to years of banging our heads against the wall with our club or we were slipped some mushroom tea or something... there is surely a way that it all can slip away somehow. For now, though, we are living in what seems like reality... and it's a reality that happens to "other clubs".
Let us not candy coat things - since day one of the Search For a New Head Coach, Newcastle and Lee Charnley have botched this thing. John Carver was installed as interim head coach with the hope that he would be "good enough" and save the club a lot of hassle with identifying a real target. He barely got the job done but in such an underwhelming manner that the club turned back to their primary target in the form of Steve McClaren, who by this time had been fired from Derby for falling out of the promotion chase. McClaren could make a case that he was hard done by with some of the ways the club supported him (especially in the early days). January kind of solved that as the sizable investment in the playing squad had his fingerprints all over it. Whatever the ultimate reason, McClaren couldn't reach the playing squad... could never produce the results on the pitch... and so Newcastle United were right exactly where they had been one year ago. Underperforming manager. Terrible form. Relegation battle. This all felt normal.
A light was shone onto the decaying corpse of our club and there was hope. The primary manifestation of this hope was that McClaren would be gone; the attendant admission of abject failure by the club that would be required for this to happen would be forthcoming. Rumblings of Newcastle's interest in Rafael Benitez began to spring up. Easy to discount and toss away as "Of course they're interested in Rafa. Like hell he comes here though". It turns out, however, that Rafa has apparently been eyeing the Newcastle hotseat for some time. From The Chron's excellent interview with Guillem Balague:
Guillem explains: "On at least on two occasions conversations have taken place between Benitez and Newcastle, including just before he went to Real Madrid last year, but also well before that as well.
Quite clearly all the top clubs are looking in different directions; once you take Liverpool, Everton, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea out of the equation, I think Newcastle in his eyes belongs in the next level.
"Potentially the club could as high as that top level – it’s something we all feel, that Newcastle could be huge, but on the field it hasn’t happened recently.
So we have a manager with a pedigree the likes of which we haven't seen since the Great Man Sir Bobby walked the sidelines. And he wants to be here. And we fired an underperforming manager to get him? Surely we must still be dreaming!
But wait! There are more fun words!
I think Newcastle fans will be able to see the other guy, the Liverpool manager – the one who is up to the challenge and will bring everyone in the same direction, including the supporters.
"In my eyes the combination just seems to work.
"He is going back to a club where they are passionate about football, with fans who give everything for the team to win, and are very respectful of the manager to a point if the manager can bring them with him.
This single appointment could be the most transformative moment of the Mike Ashley era. We have a manager who has experienced high levels of success. We have the club ditching the "we know better than everyone and we're going to do this business model because HAHAHA Sports Direct and if only we could put McClaren on a zero-hours contract hahaha" and turning all of the control to a proven manager. We have 10 matches to save this season. It may just still blow up in our faces... a move could have and should have happened so much sooner... but if Rafa leads us to a great escape, the optimism surrounding this club will (and should) go through the roof.
We're still in a difficult situation. We're still far from guaranteed that this works and we survive this to reap the long-term benefits of such an appointment. For everything that this decision is, for everything it signifies and stands for, though.... enjoy every precious second of it. You've earned it, Toon Army!
If you want to .gif party this, I wouldn't blame you. I'll offer up this from the inimitable Robert Bishop as a starting point: