Looking Ahead – It’s A Huge Challenge For Rafa Benitez

There was mass relief yesterday for Newcastle fans when Huddersfield lost at home to an in-form Fulham side at John Smith’s Stadium and it was obvious before the end of the game Fulham were too just good for the Terriers.

But once that final whistle blew – Newcastle were 2 points from the Premier League with three games to go.

Hopefully we can win in style tomorrow night at home to Preston and there will be massive celebrations at the end of the game – with the emphasis on massive.

Now and then (there’s a fool such as I)

We may even get some publicity in the national press, but I’m getting carried away again.


But nothing is ever certain, especially in the rough and tumble world of the Championship, but it’s a great opportunity for the players tomorrow night.

It’s been one very tough season for the club but it’s all going to be worthwhile and successful.

Former manager Kevin Keegan has been helping his pal Terry McDermott sell his new autobiography, Terry Mac – Living for the Moment.

This is what Kevin told the Liverpool Echo about the challenge ahead for Rafa:

“They wanted him to stay and he stayed,” “They wanted him to bring them back up and he’ll bring them back up.”

“I think after that he’s then got his biggest job without doubt.”

“It’s not that difficult to get Newcastle out of the Championship with the finance they’ve got, the players they’ve kept, the fans that they’ve got.”

“But it’s a bit more difficult when you get in with the big boys who are a few steps ahead of you.”

“Newcastle is a big club like Liverpool but it hasn’t won anything for a long time.”

Rafa will be delighted to get promoted because he then has a massive challenge ahead of him to make Newcastle great again.

He will be loving the massive opportunity of doing that.

All we need is for owner Mike Ashley to fully support him this summer and Newcastle could become a Juggernaut in a few years time.

Mike will support Rafa – we have no doubts about that.

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Comments welcome.

117 comments so far

  • Nufc-83

    Apr 23, 2017 at 8:24 AM

    Comment #1

    What an incredibly niave statement. Of course it is difficult and I actually don’t think our squad is as strong as most of the media think but even if it was head and shoulders above the rest in quality getting promoted is still a huge achievement.

  • magscar

    Apr 23, 2017 at 8:25 AM

    Comment #2

    I give up i never learn.

    magscar // Apr 23, 2017 at 8:11 AM

    Ron Knee @6

    Without a doubt whoever he partners and i think Lascelles will be it. Rafa isn’t sentimental in his choices and obviously sees something raw but worth persevering with it for now and probably next season at least. Then again as i said earlier money talks.

    11 magscar // Apr 23, 2017 at 8:22 AM


    A rhetorical question perhaps but he has made some ricks and supporters are volatile so not surprised. As i said earlier it appears Rafa still rates him and believes he can mould him. He undoubtedly needs a steadying presence alongside him like Clark. Thinking about it I am guessing that despite this season’s generally good defensive performances especially early on they aren’t likely to be regular starting CB partnership next season (if we go up of course ) ?

    Next season is probably the one in which Rafa decides whether he is worth persevering with.

  • Magtoonpie

    Apr 23, 2017 at 8:27 AM

    Comment #3

    I think Rafa has brought a bit of luck along with his skill. Hope this carries on in the Premier League…fingers crossed for both.

  • magscar

    Apr 23, 2017 at 8:30 AM

    Comment #4


    Maybe KK has been around TV pundits too long?? Must admit i thought comment was a little begrudging. KK had John Hall in his promotion season not Ashley different personalities and different times.

  • sparky55

    Apr 23, 2017 at 8:37 AM

    Comment #5

    For those you who took my comments last night as being negative about being promoted need to go fcuk themselves…all I’m saying is surgery is required to make the team premiership ready and unfortunately in these crazy price tag times, that means expensive surgery.

    There’s very few have travelled more miles than me to watch the toon this year and no-one more delighted about being promoted but the reality is we’re not much better than anyone being relegated and this will be Rafa’s newest biggest test.

  • kimbo

    Apr 23, 2017 at 8:42 AM

    Comment #6

    I have had the privilage to watch KK teams and the excitement that was generated all week and then compare Rafa performances equivalent to watching paint dry oh I wish we could turn back time or Rafa could try attacking football, I want to be entertained. Watching Boro on MOD I wonder is that what we will be watching next season.

  • hibbit

    Apr 23, 2017 at 8:42 AM

    Comment #7

    it’s worth reading the full article not just Ed’s cherry picked headline !!!!

  • sparky55

    Apr 23, 2017 at 8:43 AM

    Comment #8

    I said a long time ago…Lascelles is slow, ponderous, easily knocked off the ball and not that bright. Good leaders are not necessarily the best players and he’s been good at leading…but he’s not a good player.

    He has none of the attributes required to make it in the Premiership and if Rafa doesn’t let him go he’ll regret it.

  • cyprus

    Apr 23, 2017 at 8:44 AM

    Comment #9

    So congratulations and happy tenth birthday Ed! 30,000 articles is seriously prolific work.

    Congratulations to the posters and readers as well for making this arguably the best team blog in the world 🙂

    We’ll celebrate, I hope, one more thing tomorrow. Come on Preston, get with the spirit, don’t spoil it 😉


    Apr 23, 2017 at 8:55 AM

    Comment #10

    Tbf who hasn’t made mistakes this season or had their form drop? I think he’s had a good season considering everything that’s gone on and his age

    I’d be amazed if he’s not here next season

  • SA Toon

    Apr 23, 2017 at 8:56 AM

    Comment #11

    To all the NUFC faithful who have gone to the games week in and week out, tomorrow is your day. I’ll be watching the game live on SuperSport 5, but I’ll be with you in spirit at SJP. Enjoy the game and make some noise. Let’s get this done tomorrow. HOWAY THE LADS

  • magscar

    Apr 23, 2017 at 8:58 AM

    Comment #12


    The jury is out on Lascelles and much depends on who Rafa can get and what he could get for him. Saying that it does seem clear that Rafa still sees something there. Didn’t cost us much and can’t see problem if he does stay as he would be back up perhaps in a Hanley role but much depends on the team rebuild.

  • Nufc-83

    Apr 23, 2017 at 8:59 AM

    Comment #13

    Sparky that’s rubbish in my opinion he is a young CB leaning his trade with plenty of excellent attributes. He very rarely loses a header is a good leader and times a tackle well. He will improve his positioning with time and then will be a top class cb imo.

    Saying that I do think we need a top class CB for the prem and I think Clarke is ahead of lascelles at the moment for me so may not get the playing time he needs next year.

  • El Sleeve

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:01 AM

    Comment #14

    If we’ve been watching Maguire, then I hope we’ve been looking at Grosicki and Clucas too, because they were unbelievable yesterday for Hull.

  • magscar

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:02 AM

    Comment #15


    Agreed and he has been vulnerable without Clark. As i said to Sparky Rafa seems to still be a fan but he is very pragmatic and it will be interesting to say the least as to how his rebuild takes shape. If he is here would he still be captain?

  • El Sleeve

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:03 AM

    Comment #16

    Mbemba has had a resurgence of late, but would like to see Shawcross or Maguire added to the ranks

  • sparky55

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:08 AM

    Comment #17


    It’s not rubbish, it’s my opinion having seen him live at just about every away game we’ve had this year.

    His poor defending and poor positional sense has led to quite a few of the goals we’ve conceded this year.

    There’s many on here will say the midfield had not done their job but you can only defend what’s in front of you or next to you and there’s many a defender even in the championship would have done a better job in the situations where’s he’s not picked up, or not been strong enough or or just not clever enough resulting in us conceding a goal.

    He’s championship quality at best…IMO

  • magscar

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:11 AM

    Comment #18

    Although the media get targets wrong (especially ours as we don’t normally say anything until they are over that proverbial line) and we have 4CB’s I think they have it right that we are on the look out for at least one new CB.

    One of the things that riled me this season is that we seem to lack an old fashioned captain who cajoles and encourages his team mates when we go behind or are struggling. Points have undoubtedly been lost because we lose focus. Rafa may be looking at addressing that in Summer?

  • magscar

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:18 AM

    Comment #19


    I get what you are saying but he is young for that position and as a captain. I think it all depends on whether or not you feel he can develop especially with a role model brought in to iron out his recurring faults. I personally think he is worth a chance next season albeit as a bit part and with a good role model to follow. Not all fans will agree and whilst we could do better ( in most positions) it is likely to be a season of consolidation and making do in some areas whilst others are prioritised.


    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:19 AM

    Comment #20

    It’s be terrible man management to remove the captaincy from him imo he may not be certain to start next srason but I think he will remain captain

  • LewSpi v2.0

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:20 AM

    Comment #21

    Congratulations on 10 years of running the blog Ed, a remarkable achievement. 30,000 articles is that right? Over 8 per day, every day for 10 years!

  • magscar

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:24 AM

    Comment #22


    Yes it would be during a season and to be honest what candidates were there – Clark?

    A new season is an opportunity for fresh thinking and much depends who is brought in but if Lascelles is not a regular starter then i think it is difficult to keep the captaincy. Rafa is wily and experienced enough to handle a change and keep Lascelles sweet. The No 9 shirt issue at beginning of season was resolved without any rancour.

  • LewSpi v2.0

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:25 AM

    Comment #23

    Priority positions that need strengthening then for next season:

    1. Number 10
    2. Left wing
    3. A makelele/kante midfield role
    4. Left back
    5. Centre back
    6. Striker

    In that order. Anyone agree/disagree?

    I’d rather see us put £45mil into the first three and then loan a young striker such as Tammy Abraham as appose to spending £20-£25 mil on a striker like andre grey and be left short in 1-3.

  • Blackley and Brownlie

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:27 AM

    Comment #24

    Lascelles has been key to our season. His heading is excellent. He gets pushed off the ball, Sparky? I don’t think so. I think you’re thinking of Colo when our defence was a disaster. It might be a surprise to some that he’s been named in the team of the year by his fellow professionals but not to me. He has sickened opponents all season. Okay, he’s dropped a few ricks and his positional play has been suspect at times, but I don’t know a CB who doesn’t drop a rick from time to time.

  • toon kk

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:27 AM

    Comment #25

    Once we’re officially promoted (hopefully tomorrow night) it will have been a great team and management performance over the course of the season.
    But one player stands out for the main contribution” Gayle” we wouldn’t have done it without you. Thanks man.

  • sparky55

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:34 AM

    Comment #26


    I was down at norwich and that game was a perfect example of what I mean.

    Both goals were his fault and Cameron (very much a journeyman plodder if there ever was one) bullied him all night and shoved him off the ball every time.

    Laceless doesn’t use his significant frame to anywhere near what he should but that considerable frame is also his downfall…he’s slow, can’t turn, ponderous and not very clever.

    Yes he’s good in the air and strong in the tackle but that alone doesn’t make a premiership ready defender…he’ll get murdered next year just you watch.

  • magscar

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:34 AM

    Comment #27

    LewSpi v2.0

    Can’t argue with no 1 but would put5 and 6 behind that. No real competition at LB for Dummet and he is limited. Can’t see Murphy being here and not sure if Gayle would cut it as no 9 and what does Rafa really think of Mitro?

    Does he rate Aaron’s?

    Don’t think the order in which players are brought in will mirror the necessity but more the availability at a particular time. Great to get early deals done but some will drag on.

  • sparky55

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:38 AM

    Comment #28


    The priority from a player recruitment perspective has to be defence surely?

    Lascelles is a long way off being premiership ready and IMO it will take a couple of years of training with proper premiership standard strikers before he’ll be ready.

    I will be very concerned it he starts a game at the beginning of next season…he’s just not good enough IMO

  • Pottsclock

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:39 AM

    Comment #29

    Striker and defensive midfield are the two areas that need addressing most urgently. We’re weak across most areas by PL stabdard – even Richie who has been great for us this year will lack pace in the PL. It’s gonna be interesting to see how much and where the money is spent. Plenty players to offload, of course, and I include Colback, Mitro in that list

  • lesh

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:39 AM

    Comment #30

    With two points needed to get us up, It’s been a hard season for Rafa and assuming we are promoted he and we should be looking forward to phase two of Rafa’s strategy – consolidate the Club’s status in the Prem. Straightforward? Not necessarily.

    Why? Because Rafa’s got to convince our beloved owner that the majority of the players he bought in the summer were bought for one reason – to get Newcastle United out of the Championship but not good enough for the Prem and thus moved out and the squad rebuilt to cope with and survive in the Prem. However, there is the possibility Ashley, advised by his trusted football adviser, Carr, is likely to argue that some of Rafa’s buy will not realise a profit on sales and insist that Carr have more influence over player recruitment. In my reading of Ed’s earlier thread in which Rafa’s heaping praise on his players, the ones who were recruited because of their suitability for and experience of the Championship, Rafa’s airing that argument publicly as a precursor to his hoped-for meeting with Ashley. Will that be straightforward? Will Rafa be able to shift Ashley’s short-term view of finances – making a profit on players rather than seeing them as investments to take the Club to a higher level along with the rewards thereof? That may well be the biggest challenge Rafa’ll face in the close season.

    If Rafa wins that round, we’re in business and can look forward to next season and thereafter, under his guidance. If not, it’ll prove that Ashley has fouled things up yet again.

    In the meantime, let’s hope the lads give the fans reason to party on Monday night and from there, win our remaining two games, hope Brighton lose theirs and go up as champions.

  • Moonraker15

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:42 AM

    Comment #31

    Makelele role; definitely
    Number 10; definitely
    Striker; definitely
    Spend 60 million on them and anything after that is a bonus!

  • LewSpi v2.0

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:44 AM

    Comment #32

    See I agree that defence is where we need to improve, but actually defence from a midfield point of view, defending from the front. The number 10 and left wing this year have in my opinion failed to control the game well enough and been weak links, they haven’t been smart enough and put unnecessary pressure on the defence with their positioning. (This is not me being negative, it’s constructive!)

  • ScoopSouthAfrica

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:45 AM

    Comment #33

    Congrats Ed on 10 years……
    30,000 articles wow imagine how many comments have been posted!!!! Say an average of 50 per article would make it 1,500,000 comments.
    That is one hell of a lot of discussion & debate.
    Maybe someone has more accurate stats?
    Here is hoping for Monday on behalf of all South African Toon fans. HWTL’s

  • magscar

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:46 AM

    Comment #34


    Defence will be a priority but i feel LB and cover at RB (if Anita isn’t kept on) are more vital. Lascelles did play most if not all games under Rafa at end of last season in PL. I can’t see him shipping out 2 CB’s unless he has some great options lined up and Hanley has to have a question mark against him. Yes Mbemba has played in pL but It doesn’t seem that Rafa has great confidence in him as a starter.

    As i posted earlier i think a true No10 is most vital as 4231 works better. We can all agree that there are areas that need a little more than plugging. Let’s hope that at around9:45 tomorrow night that is what our thoughts and aspirations can focus on 🙂

  • Jib

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:47 AM

    Comment #35

    Darlow was most at fault at Carrow Road.
    Who scored the qualiser to make it 2 – 2 and win us a valuable away point ?

  • Jib

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:49 AM

    Comment #36

    re left back
    Rumour in Spain has it that Alberto Moreno is leaving Anfield for SJP

  • hibbit

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:49 AM

    Comment #37

    let’s get the 3 points in the bag first still a job to do !!

  • LewSpi v2.0

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:50 AM

    Comment #38


    Is that in the press? You got a link?

  • sparky55

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:51 AM

    Comment #39

    Jib…you weren’t there and you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about…look what Lascelles did (or didn’t do) before Darlow made his judgement of error and look at how easily Lascelles was bullied off the ball for Jerome to make the assist on the first goal.

    Lascelles was fcuking shocking that night irrespective of the fact he scored

  • Moonraker15

    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:53 AM

    Comment #40

    Rafa is loyal to his players but he won’t hesitate to sell them if he thinks they won’t cut it in the prem!
    Seeing the standard Spurs and Chelsea have set we won’t be up there for a few years but there are at least 8 teams we should be above next season with 60 million or so invested, well within our means having made 40 million profit last year. Then the following season Rafa will want to be in the top 6 as he’s a born winner not a Pardew or McClaren. That will test Ashley’s resolve and ambition because I’m convinced Rafa wants to make us great!


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