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The Biggest Two Weeks In NUFC's Recent History

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Rafa has put a two-week time frame on his ultimate decision. These two weeks could be the most crucial in Newcastle United's recent history.

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The next fortnight could well define Newcastle's future as Rafa Benitez decides whether to stay at the relegated club or head for pastures new, should a better offer come along. While the rumours of Everton's interest have already started to circulate, it's clear what the fans on Tyneside want more than anything. They chanted it loud and long throughout the 5-1 thrashing of Tottenham Hotspur at the final Premier League game (for now) at St.James' Park: Rafa Benitez - we want you to stay!

Although the victory was emphatic, you can't help but feel what might have been had this kind of performance been turned in when it mattered most. Maybe even if Benitez had been given a few extra weeks to save the club from the drop, the club might have been celebrating a great escape instead of facing another summer of uncertainty. Despite being unbeaten in their last  6 games of the campaign Newcastle head for the Championship for the second time in 7 years.

There's now a nervous wait for supporters as the Spaniard makes a decision on his future. If the interest from Everton is serious it may be difficult for Benitez to turn down a return to Merseyside where he still has a home and family. A return to Spain could materialise should former club Valencia come calling. It's hard to see him getting another job in England and the Newcastle one could turn into a perfect match should Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley hand him full control of transfers.

That's what the owner and chief executive should be offering Benitez in talks this week; the complete set of tools to bring the club back up at the first attempt with an opportunity to stabilise it in the top flight once more. If, and it's a big if, Ashley and Charnley can somehow persuade Benitez to sacrifice 9 months in the second tier and secure his services for the long-term then it will go a long way to repairing the damaged relationship between the board and the fans.

Should they fail, and Benitez decides over the next two weeks that his future lies elsewhere, then the club could meander into Championship obscurity, along with the likes of Blackburn, Leeds, Nottingham Forest and other giants of the English game. If the board get this one wrong, there's no turning back.

While the experts may say Rafa has never faced a task such as bringing a team back to the Premier League at the first attempt, he still has to be the man for the job. The list of alternatives don't compare to a manager of his calibre. He has felt the love from the fans in his short tenure so far, enough to make him contemplate staying on despite relegation.

If he and board can work in tandem and hash out a positive outcome for all concerned, then there's no telling where Benitez could take this club in the years to come.