Rob Elliot has been on the sidelines injured at Newcastle for most of the time that Rafa Benitez has been on board at Newcastle and he has seen the amazing things that have happened at the club in lots of different areas since the world-class manager arrived on Tyneside last March.
Rafa couldn’t save us from relegation, but so much has changed in the last nine months with the club and the team being almost unrecognizable from the state of things in early March after we had lost at home to Bournemouth.
That game turned out to be the final game of Steve McClaren’s utterly disastrous reign on Tyneside.
Rob Elliot in training this season
Rob Elliot has given an interview in the Irish Times today and he talks about how everything changed once Rafa Benitez arrived.
This is some of what Elliot has told The Irish Times:
“If you needed a game to convince a manager, it was the Tottenham game on the final day of the season, it showed what the club could be.”
“The best I’ve ever seen this club was the day we got relegated.” “The mentality of the group changed. It became more collective.”
“Maybe players had come to do well at Newcastle in order to move on.” “No disrespect to them, but as a club Newcastle United shouldn’t accept that.”
“We should be the pinnacle.” “The Bournemouth defeat It felt like the end.” “The fans had lost patience with us, the manager and the club. The whole thing had turned sour.”
“Then we heard about Rafa Benitez and we thought: ‘This can’t be right!’” “We met him here in the canteen, talking like school kids.”
“It was almost like the club changed instantly. The fans changed. We went to Leicester in his first game and did well.”
“Then we drew with Sunderland. That was my last Newcastle game.” “It (relegation) was probably waiting to happen for three years. It was solemn.”
“But then the whole club turned. It was like the closing of a chapter.”
“Then the questions: ‘Will Rafa stay?’ ‘Are things going to change the way we do things at the club?’”
“Luckily those things have happened.”
“In the dressing room after the Fulham defeat, I was surprised, the lads were all chatting about what could be done better.”
“I don’t know if it would have been like that last season. There was a group trust developing.”
“Then we lost to Huddersfield at home. Again, I think that was good. It showed us how teams were going to play at St James’.”
It was a terrible start this season with two successive defeats, but everybody hung in there together – criticism of Rafa and the team was mooted – and of course we then started to win games – and kept winning games.
We’ve won 17 of our first 24 games in the league – a 71% win rate.
Newcastle are now top of the Championship and although there are areas of the team we need to improve and we’ve had more shocks, things are on schedule for promotion this season.
And we all now realize that no game will be easy in the Championship, but Rafa is clearly transforming Newcastle United for the better.
As Rafa has said in the last few days – the future at Newcastle is bright.
An uplifting thought to start off 2017 with.
Happy New Year everybody.