For Rafa Benitez to stay on at Newcastle not only meant he would visit very small grounds with facilities he hadn’t confronted since his early days as a manager, but he would literally disappear from view on thew world scene – because everything in English football is about the Premier League – everything.
Remember this is a man who had coached Real Madrid, Inter-Milan and Chelsea since leaving Liverpool in the summer of 2010 – these are all world-class clubs all of which have won the Champions League and other European trophies.
It’s much worse in England than it was back in 2009 when we were first relegated from the Premier League – you are now very much second class football citizens if you’re a second division side.
I’m not saying it’s good, but that’s the truth.
Rafa Benitez – the proud and dedicated Newcastle United manager
So it still amazes us that Rafa stayed with Newcastle and not only that, but he seemed to enjoy it and took on the challenge of how to beat clubs like Burton Albion and Rotherham United.
Yes, we got the double over both of them although Fulham, Sheffield Wednesday and Blackburn Rovers all got the double over us – and Rovers may still be relegated.
So it wasn’t easy and in the end we made it back up immediately.
So it wasn’t all plain sailing, but Rafa’s utter determination to have his squad learn from all the mistakes they made augers well for the future.
And now we have players like Matt Ritchie, Ciaran Clark, Paul Dummett, DeAndre Yedlin, Jonjo Shelvey, Dwight Gayle and others who will know exactly what Rafa wants from them next season.
That was not true when pre-season started last summer, when we eventually had 12 new players in the squad and they all had to be quickly assimilated into the squad.
When Mr. Benitez finally looks back on his long and successful career when he retires in the (very) distant future, he could well look at this season as one of his most satisfying of all – he showed what a terrific coach he really is.
Just ask our players who he talks to all the time.
He took on a tough task that would get little or no publicity and got the job done – he got it done successfully and saved a City’s dreams too – Newcastle.
That is what amazes us most about Rafa staying at Newcastle and it shows not only his personal courage, but also his complete and utter trust in his own ability.
But that he is also dedicated to Newcastle United.
When he talks with owner Mike Ashley soon, Mike should realize if Rafa had left last summer, there would be no way we would now be a Premier League club.
No way at all because Rafa, his name, personality and charisma attracted top players like Dwight Gayle, Matt Richie and Issac Hayden among others to Newcastle.
Here’s what Rafa has said today, when he spoke to the Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport, principally about the state of Serie A football.
He starts off talking about where he’s been this last year:
“I had not disappeared, I chose to stay in Newcastle because I wanted to regain that Premier League that we had tried to defend when I arrived, but I found a desperate situation.”
“Promotion is a gift to all of Newcastle. It was not purgatory. It is a season which can give satisfaction to everyone.”
“We tried to get promoted and we succeeded.”
“We had the weight of a huge responsibility, and I felt it too here that I found myself elevated to the role of idol.”
“At Inter it felt like a massive wasted opportunity, which I have pointed out many times.”
“When I first arrived, I received promises that were not kept.”
“I had laid out a path, the moment had come to change out of necessity, the average age of the squad was too high.”
“It wasn’t my fault that things ended badly and after all, I contributed to bringing the Italian Super Cup and the Club World Cup into their trophy room.”
So when we have that wonderful celebration next Sunday afternoon at the venerable St. James’ Park packed to the rafters, whether we end up winning the Championship or not, let’s hear it for Rafa Benitez who is not only a great coach but also shows definite signs of becoming a great man.
And his best years in coaching are still ahead of him at Newcastle United Football Club.
He has definitely both mellowed and matured since he was a young coach at places like Liverpool FC and Valencia so in other words he is now a better coach than he was back then – by his own admission.
And wouldn’t it be great if Mike Ashley and Rafa Benitez see eye to eye on Newcastle’s future and get on famously at their one-on-one meeting coming up – hopefully this week.
That’s what we really want to see after their meeting, which is absolutely vital to the future of the club.
Howay The Bonnie Lads!!