Well it has certainly been coming for some time now, but finally we have confirmation that Rafael Benítez will stay at Newcastle United.
I’m delighted to be honest.
Benítez came to Tyneside back in March to find a club in tatters. Steve McLaren and the puppeteers above him left an enormous challenge for the former Real Madrid manager.
The 56 year-old has renegotiated a three-year deal with the Magpies that will see him at the club until 2019. Following an official statement form the club, Newcastle United crucially state that “Benitez will have day-to-day responsibility for all football-related matters at the club”.
Benitez himself has said that “the love I could feel from the fans was a big influence for me in my decision to stay” which is a testament to the club’s passionate supporters.
Benitez added that “this is a huge club and I wanted to be part of the great future I can see for Newcastle United.”
The Spaniard has been given written assurances that he has “day-to-day responsibility for all football-related matters at the club”, meaning that he will have full control of player recruitment and the transfer budget.
From the outside it seems strange that Newcastle fans would beg the manager who relegated the club to stay on, but Benitez isn’t your average manager, and it is clear that he had a positive impact on the team. Furthermore, this is the man who just 5 months ago was at the helm of one of the best clubs in the world – Real Madrid.
Unfortunately for Rafa, next season he’ll be taking his team to places like Burton upon Trent rather than Barcelona…which is kind of the same…
Signing Benítez in the first place was probably the single most ambitious thing owner Mike Ashley has done with the club since he took over in 2007. Despite creating one of the most expensive flops in Premier League history, he must be praised for keeping Rafa on board for at least another year – although he should have signed him sooner.
So how will Benítez do in the Championship?
You’d think that it would be a walk in the park for one of the most experienced managers in the world, but we can’t be too complacent.
The Championship is not easy, and clubs with proud histories such as Leeds United have failed to bounce back to the top flight of English football.
The speed of play in the Championship may not be quite as quick as the Prem, but that’s because the style of play is very different. This change in style has gotten the better of sides like Portsmouth who now find themselves in League 2.
In the lower leagues the football is more direct and this may favor some Newcastle United such as Mitrović who loves to challenge the ball in the air, although that all depends on whether we can keep him and several other key players in the current squad.
Benítez will need to spend wisely this summer without hemorrhaging to many players, as squad depth will be vital in a season that has eight more games than the Premier League.
Players with promotion experience will be vital to Newcastle United’s campaign, and strong characters will be needed in the dressing room.
Players such as Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan helped us bounce straight back to the Premier League 6 years ago, but its difficult to see anyone in the current squad who could imitate those heroes.
When I look back at the 2009-2010 season in the Championship, I maintain that it was one of the most enjoyable seasons I’ve experienced as a Newcastle fan. Tickets were cheap and fans were more passionate than ever as the Magpies ended the season having won 30 of their 46 matches.
Of course, I’d rather we were in the Premier League, but there are reasons to be optimistic for the years ahead. If Newcastle were to bounce straight back to the Premier League with Benítez, who knows where we could go from there…
Mike Ashley is the only person in the world who could screw this up now – lets wait and see…