Steve Harper has been talking to the Chronicle on what a remarkable job Rafa Benitez has done at Newcastle this season.
The club is now in 10th place with a decent enough chance of finishing the season in the upper half of the table.
But Steve isn’t sure that owner Mike Ashley will fully back the manager this summer so we can be challenging for a top six position next season, and that’s what fans are hoping for.
Steve Harper – in his playing days at Newcastle – circa 2012
This is what Steve has said today:
“He needs to be backed this summer, definitely,”
“If the situation was to stay the same, then again it would be difficult next year – and then you’re into second-season syndrome.”
“That’s when teams work you out and they know how you’re going to play, so they’re better prepared for you.”
“Hopefully he is going to be backed, because if he takes them to 10th this season, that would be a huge bonus – and any funds from that need to go back into the team through rebuilding.”
“Is he going to be backed with money to the tune of making Newcastle competitive for the top six?”
“I think that’s highly unlikely.”
“But it would be nice if they did back him and, if they do back him sufficiently, then ideally he would sign a new contract and be able to build something by growing year on year.”
“Then you can move up a position or two every year and really get this club competitive again.
“If they finish 10th, that’s an incredible achievement and he needs to be backed.”
“Because if he is backed, the players he has brought in – the likes of Kenedy, Martin Dubravka – they’ve shown the quality and level that he wants to work with.”
“That would be the ideal scenario, but having spent 20 years here you know that is doesn’t always work like that.”
There are negotiations going on with Rafa’s people and Managing Director Lee Charnley this week and we don’t know how long those discussions will last.
But it remains to be seen what level of investment and ambition Rafa needs to see from owner Mike Ashley for him to sign an extended contract to stay on at Newcastle.
Hopefully, they can work something out and the sooner, the better.
Steve Harper played 199 games for Newcastle United over a 20-year stay at the club.