What a day!
After news this morning that Steve McClaren had been relieved of his duties, the increasing speculation and excitement surrounding the possibility of Rafa Benitez joining the Magpies has this afternoon been confirmed.
Not since the appointment of Sir Bobby Robson have Newcastle United had a manager that will demand the respect, based on what he has achieved, that we now have in Rafa.
Benitez has won 12 major trophies including two Spanish League titles and the Champions League with Liverpool.
Based in the Wirral, near Liverpool, it has been long known that Benitez loves life in England. Indeed his wife remained in England even during his recent management spell at Real Madrid. His wife leads a charity group known locally as the Wirral Witches raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for local and national charities and Rafa has always been keen to find a footballing ‘project' in England that would mean he could continue his managerial career here.
Benitez will become the highest paid manager in Newcastle’s history, but after several bargain basement managers that won’t come as much of surprise to many.
And as for a ‘project’, well he certainly has that.
The recent loosening of the purse strings may have gone some way to convincing Rafa that this was the challenge for him. And whilst Benitez has signed a 3 and a bit year deal taking him to the end of the 2018/19 season he does have the option to walk away at the end of this season if we do indeed go down.
Indeed most frustrating of all now for Newcastle fans would likely be that scenario. After finally getting a manager we can ALL believe in wouldn’t it be sods law if it proved too little too late and he walked away after we are pipped to safety by that lot down the road. An even greater outcry and sense of what could have been would be almost unbearable.
The Spaniard arrived at St James Park in the now famous people carrier used to ferry our recent new arrivals from airports to medical over recent months. The speed at which the paperwork was signed a clear indication that in fact all the details had been thrashed out between ‘his people’ and Newcastle many hours and days before. In those details will have been clear stipulations on his role, his authority at the club and what he needs to be a success.
Rafa’s first action as manager was to cancel the day off that the Newcastle players were enjoying, calling them all in for an impromptu training session. Partly to put his stamp on the club the session will also have given a chance for the players to meet some of the new backroom staff that Benitez has brought with him in Fabio Pecchia, Francisco de Miguel Moreno and Antonio Gomoz Perez. The fact that Rafa has insisted on bringing his own team of long serving and trusted coaching staff with his may well be the key to any successful fight against relegation. It does of course mean that from the first training session the players will be drilled in the Rafa way rather than having to go through a lengthy process with any existing coaching team. Let’s face it, every minute of preparation is going to count from here on in.
You do wonder how he and his management team must have been feeling in the cold and damp watching the like of Gouffran ‘strutting his stuff’ instead of Bale and Ronaldo in a Spanish summer breeze.
Read the club statement on Rafa joining Newcastle United HERE
Our new boss has 10 games to save us this season starting on Monday night against league leaders Leicester City and followed a week later by the visit of Sunderland. And with an international break the week after that game he will be hoping for a morale boosting result or two in those games before that break allows him the time to stamp his mark onto the team for the run in.
The appointment of Rafa has been widely hailed across the footballing world.
Rafa’s old Liverpool captain Jamie Carragher: ‘If he keeps them up it will be a great appointment over the next three of four years’
Alan Shearer: ‘What a coup’
Colo: ‘Now we have a great manager’
Only time will tell if this fantastic appointment has come too late to save us. We have to hope that all his experience of handling pressure at the right end of the table, for now at least, will see us through to safety. IF he can, then we can dream.