Rafa Benitez is nobody´s fool and he is a workaholic who simply lives and breathes football.
He had an eye on Newcastle for at least a couple of years with word coming out of Italy when he was at Naples that he could be interested in becoming the Newcastle manager.
We never believed those reports, but it now looks like they were true.
It turns out Rafa wanted to manage back in England and the Premier League, so he was close to his wife and two daughters in the Wirral, just outside of Liverpool.
Rafa Benitez – Newcastle manager
Newcastle is about a three hour car ride from his home to Newcastle – about 200 miles – but only 120 miles point to point – as the crow flies.
The fastest train ride from Lime Street to the Central takes two minutes over three hours.
So when the Newcastle job finally opened up after Steve McClaren was given far too much time to lose too many games – Rafa was interested and he confounded a number of people in football by finally taking the job on Friday March 11th.
Rafa saw Newcastle as another Liverpool – with the Geordies very much like Scousers in their passion for football and their club – and in one sense Newcastle was even a better club to take over than Liverpool.
Since 1970 Liverpool had won a ton of trophies with Bill Shankly and then Bob Paisley in charge, but at Newcastle we have won nowt since 1969.
And as Alan Shearer told him before he took the job – he would be an instant hero if he had Newcastle winning a trophy.
Maybe even a bronze statue in St. James’ Park longer term.
Rafa may have found it more difficult than he first thought when he first arrived, with the club almost down and out with those running Newcastle being the most incompetent in the Premier League.
Lee Charnley couldn´t even fire Steve McClaren professionally without embarrassing the club with his ineptitude – and he had to issue an apology to Steve following his dismissal.
One point from four games wasn’t a good start as far as the points go for Rafa – and it looked like we were dead and buried with one point from the previous 7 games.
But Rafa´s magic in man-management coupled with his immense football know-how is now showing through and the man has not wavered in his belief he can save Newcastle.
5 points from the last 3 games is an excellent return for us.
That belief is now getting through to the players and to the fans too – although it’s still going to be difficult.
If Rafa does save us he will already be a hero at Newcastle – and he will continue to be given a free rein to run the club.
Rafa will be in charge of all team personnel including the transfers.
If we stay up there will be meetings to thrash out the finer details and Rafa may ask for more control in other areas and he´s almost certain to ask for the new training facilities to be built as soon as possible.
So if we can get three wins in the last three games – which is not impossible – things could be looking very good for Newcastle´s future.
And that has to be a huge understatement.
Next up is Crystal Palace and we must win that game in front of a full house at St. James’ Park.