Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville had some interesting comments about Rafa Benitez recently during an event for Sky Bet’s preview of the Premier League season.
All clubs were represented, and Gallowgate Shots were there for Newcastle. The entire exchange has been published by the Chronicle.
We found the following comments by Carragher and Neville to be quite intriguing as they were a bit critical of Rafa Benitez’s lack of attacking football while at Newcastle.
This is what Gary Neville had to say about Newcastle under Rafa Benitez:
“I’ve got a lot of time for him but when I went up to Newcastle, I thought the football was average. To me, it didn’t represent the club, it didn’t represent the city, it didn’t represent the culture, didn’t represent what you are.
“You could argue he was doing the best he could – he gave you that impression all the time – that his hands were tied behind his back, that he had to play this way. No, he wanted to play like that because that’s the way he plays.
“He played like that at Liverpool when he had money. Every time I went, I think he was having you over. He [Carragher] agrees by the way. He can’t say it but he agrees!”
We always admired Rafa Benitez for the way he had Newcastle set up. It was a pragmatic approach, and it worked to keep Newcastle comfortably in the league. Unfortunately, that was all that Benitez believed could be achieved while he was here.
It was not the attacking football of Kevin Keegan, but it was what had to be done to keep Newcastle afloat as they continued to drift further away from their Champions League past.
The following is part of Jamie Carragher’s response to Neville’s assertion that Benitez’s style of football was boring.
“I agree with some of the sentiments you’ve [Neville] said in that I still think me watching Newcastle in the last couple of years, it still could have been a bit more on the front foot, using the crowd.
“I commentated on the Newcastle/Liverpool game at the end of the season, the atmosphere was electric. It was just an end to end game.
“I’m not saying Rafa Benitez would ever be Kevin Keegan – he’s organised, he’s a top manager – but I still think he could’ve trusted the players a bit more and just created that atmosphere at Newcastle a little bit more and I just think now with the actual players he’s brought in…I was looking at the players that you’ve brought in.”
Jamie Carragher is not going to slate Rafa Benitez and is absolutely correct that he was a top manager. There were games when Rafa did open it up a bit but when playing sides like Manchester City, he would take the pragmatic route and defend.
While the national media were harsh on Rafa for that, what choice did he really have? He kept Newcastle in games while teams that tried to play open like Huddersfield were getting trounced 0-5 at home against top-six sides.
Gary Neville continued with the following comments:
“You go into the season knowing you’re not going to win the league or probably challenge for it but you want to go to the match and you want to go with your mate, have a few pints, get excited, get on the edge of your seat.
“You want a player you’re going there to watch or can’t wait to see him today. But it was never like that under Benitez with Newcastle. Even under Pardew, I know you didn’t like him. He had a couple of strikers, [Hatem] Ben Arfa was there – you had a few things.
“How did you get over the fact that you weren’t going to match being excited but still all loved Benitez?”
The fans were able to get excited because it was Rafa Benitez who was the manager. He is a world-class manager and he did what he could to keep the club afloat.
It’s on to Steve Bruce now and he will have a different style. It remains to be seen if it will be equally as effective and we will reserve judgment until more results are in.
However, Rafa Benitez’s time at Newcastle will always be remembered. Even if it wasn’t exciting for some, it was magical for us.