Rafa Benitez has changed almost everything at Newcastle this year since he arrived on Friday March 11th as the new manager taking over from the fired Steve McClaren.
Rafa couldn’t quite save us from relegation, but he transformed the team in those 10 final games and we ended up with a reasonable 37 points with 3 draws and 3 wins in those final 6 games and slammed Spurs 5-1 at home in the last game.
But we were relegated because Sam Allardyce at Sunderland also got 3 wins and 3 draws in the last 6 games to remain above us by 2 points in the league.
Rafa Benitez – we will try to win the League Cup
One of the things Rafa has changed is the attitude towards the cup games and whereas Mike Ashley wanted the team to concentrate on the Premier League – because that’s where the money is – Rafa has been given free rein at the club and he will try to win the two local cups every year – with the emphasis on “try”.
Before Rafa came along we fielded weak sides that ensured we didn’t have long cup runs.
Rafa has been interviewed in the local press today and he has talked about how the run to the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup – we play at Hull City in that game – has been positive.
That’s because it has allowed the manager to give some playing time to more players in his strong squad.
This is what Rafa said about the run:
“I think it is positive.” “If you have enough players in the squad because and you do not have too many injuries it is positive.”
“It means that you have more options as a manager.” “Maybe the players who cannot play in the league games can play in the cup games.”
“Then you can keep everyone happy.”
“I know what the FA Cup and the League Cup means to the fans.” “It’s really important to approach the competition seriously and try to win.”
“But we don’t go around telling everyone we will win the trophy.” (how about “trying” to win the trophy?)
“We are playing with a lot of confidence at the moment.” “But we make it very clear here, we treat every game like the last one.”
“I think it will be tough. They have a good manager. They are in form and they are doing well.”
“We have to be ready. We have to be ready against good teams.”
That’s a great strategy to concentrate only on how to win the next game.
Benitez has won the FA Cup with Liverpool but not the League Cup, although he did take Liverpool to the final of the competition back in 2005, when they lost to Chelsea 3-2 after extra time.
That was Rafa’s first season at Liverpool when he won the Champions League with the sensational come from behind win (3-0 down at half time) on penalties against Milan in Istanbul.
But following Rafa’s methods – next up for Newcastle is the only thing that matters right now and it’s a very tough game at Elland Road against Leeds on Sunday.
It will be in front of a sold-out crowd of close to 40,000 – the first time that has happened at Leeds since back in 2010.