On 12th March 2016 the feeling among Newcastle United fans began to change. This was all down to one man, Rafael Benitez. As soon as the Spaniard lit up the St James’ Park corridors with his smile, confidence shot up in both the players and the fans.
Prior to Benitez’s arrival, Newcastle fans had to suffer through managers that just didn’t understand the club, local community, or the fans. This of course was a recipe for disaster, both Alan Pardew and Steve McClaren didn’t even attempt to understand what the club meant to the fans, what the fans felt the club needed at the time. There had been a suggestion that both Pardew and McClaren had been “Yes men”, they would never challenge Mike Ashley on anything, resulting in more misery for the club.
Benitez changed all that, straight away he was in the local community asking questions and doing his research. Similarities between Benitez and previous managers in Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson soon started to appear. Like Keegan and Robson, managers who really cared for not just the club but the local community and fans, Benitez similarly wants what’s best for Newcastle United.
Benitez’s targets for Newcastle United are at threat by Mike Ashley, the owner who refuses to put any money into the club. If that threat remains at the club, unfortunately the hope that Benitez brings, will soon vanish.
The Newcastle manager has united what was a very fractured fan-base, supporters had started to become disillusioned with the club. The football club means everything to the city; if the club do well, you can feel the buzz. Countless poor decisions from Mike Ashley had taken its tole on the fans, and they had started to feel suffocated so the atmosphere suffered as a result. Benitez’s arrival brought the city back to life, with the Spaniard’s contract set to expire at the end of the season, it feels as though the club and fans are on life support. If Ashley can invest in not just the squad but the club itself, persuading Benitez to stay in the process, or alternatively selling to an owner with ambition, one that genuinely cares, it would breathe new life into the club and city.
Sir Bobby Robson and Kevin Keegan already had a connection with the club, with that, they embraced their role within the football club. Both Keegan and Robson had a connection with the fans; Benitez has also created a similar bond, with the fans pulling in the same direction as the manager and players. Unfortunately for Newcastle, the owner is like an anchor preventing any forward movement.
If Benitez does leave at the end of the season, he will leave a huge void. There aren’t many managers out there that can fill the Spaniard's boots. Benitez has managed Newcastle with both hands tied, and in doing so he has led the club back to the Premier League and guiding the Magpies to a 10th place finish during the last campaign.
The club need to be doing all they can to give Benitez everything he wants, his demands aren’t over the top. Benitez wants the club to be competitive, just like the fans do. The fans do not expect the cub to be competing with the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea, however they do expect to be a bigger pull than the likes of Bournemouth, Wolves and Fulham, all of whom outspent Newcastle in the transfer window.
Having finished 10th last season, Newcastle fans and Benitez had every right to think that the club would push on. There weren’t any unrealistic expectations, just a hope and a desire to see the club progress year on year.
Mike Ashley is gambling once again, limited investment yet again in a time when Premier League sides are receiving an abundance of riches, leading to Newcastle fans rightfully asking, “Where has the money gone?”
Fans are continuing to pile the pressure on Ashley, they are doing the what’s right for Newcastle United and fighting for the clubs future. If Ashley continues to own the club, the future is a very bleak one.
Benitez is Newcastle’s guiding light, the fans can see a bright future with him at the helm. It is time the owner either embraces that or sells to someone with a level of ambition that the supporters and Benitez deserve.