Prior to the weekend and the lifeless, back-breaking draw at Aston Villa that came along with it, there were signs of a strange substance surrounding Newcastle United. In spite of a prolonged, terrible season marked by terrible performances, a coach who told us (in spite of what we saw) performances were "good" or "encouraging" and that there was "progress" (when there in fact was not), Rafael Benitez began to give us hope. His impact was not immediate (it couldn't have been), but the sprouts were there as the club clawed its way out of the relegation zone. Sure that grasp on 17th was tenuous as rival clubs had a game in hand, but the sprouts were there.
Cue the Newcastle United that we had grown accustomed to in the most recent edition of the Premier League. Like that old-school amusement park ride taking advantage of centrifugal force, the floor dropped out from beneath us. Relegation doom surrounded the club as the likelihood that escape was on the cards became infinitesimal. Perhaps even worse – depending on your own personal perspective – was the fact that Rafael Benitez would almost certainly be gone leaving a potential Championship season without a manager and confidence in the board to find a decent replacement extremely low.
This morning brought a beam of light to the Toon Army. An extremely tiny shaft of light broke through the relegation soil that had already been shoveled onto the club. Rafael Benitez may in fact stay at Newcastle United. Sure the story was nicely couched with favorite descriptors such as "could" and "is considering". You know, words that can not be empirically proven. This is the kind of story that many times can be discounted out of hand because of the non-specific language. From other media outlets, it probably would have been. The thing about this one is that it is being reported by Craig Hope. The same Craig Hope that had the inside track when Rafa was brought in, saying the Spaniard was interested when many were laughing about the impossibility of the idea.
If Hope is similarly positioned this time around, the repercussions are obvious. In the grandest of Newcastle United traditions, the pendulum will once again swing wildly from complete and utter depression to hope that there is a better day ahead.