It’s the end of an era for Newcastle United. Rafa Benitez and his team will no longer be managing the club come the Spaniard’s contract expiring on June 30th. It was the worst possible news for much of the vocal fanbase; the man who instantly took the side back to the Premiership with a pathetic transfer budget who commanded the respect and admiration of St James’ Park and pundits alike. It’s a departure from Tyneside akin to Bobby Robson, Kevin Keegan, or Jonas Gutierrez, where Newcastle United’s ownership by Mike Ashley continues to be regression rather than progression.
But any Newcastle United fan, desperately seeking for someone or something to blame for Benitez’s departure, should realise that Newcastle United is a club that deserves success, but may also deserve the recent trials and tribulations that it keeps consistently encountering.
Rafa Benitez during his tenure was a vocal manager: he was vocal about Newcastle’s transfer policy, he was vocal about Newcastle’s training facilities, and he was vocal about the adminstration of the club. Fans welcomed this new kind of manager that was so so different from the predecessors Alan Pardew, John Carver, and Steve McClaren. They turned up in droves every matchday after Benitez’s appointment in March 2016. As a then season ticket holder, I too was one of these spectators witnessing fans finally behind more than just the 11 players on the pitch. We as supporters of Newcastle United were firmly supportive of Rafa Benitez.
But there comes the price to such devotion and support of a football club. In reference to the idea of Schrodinger’s Cat, it can be observed that the loyal fanbase is both the Club’s greatest assest and attraction, whilst also its greatest curse and detriment. Newcastle United’s fanbase may be just as much to blame for Benitez’s departure as the likes of Mike Ashley.
50,000+ routinely turn up for the 19 home games a season, with remarkably high numbers of Geordie fans attending away games ranging from Old Trafford to the Vitality Stadium. Pundits and neutral fans praise this support as almost unparalleled; something which many Newcastle fans welcome. In reality, is this not an acceptance of the Ashley management’s running of the club? In that regardless of what Ashley, Charnley, and their associates do that the Toon Army will still pay ticket prices and other increasing expenses to support the Newcastle United name? For as long as 50,000+ continue to sell out the stadium, depite increasing ticket prices and continued dissatisfaction towards the Ashley ‘regime’, then why does Ashley need to listen to the fans and begin to implement change to keep them happy?
If the reports are to be believed, then a lack of negotiation between NUFC management and the Rafa Camp (which sounds like a brilliant business venture for anyone in the travel and holiday industry) may just show how influential the fans’ high opinions of Rafa Benitez really are in the grandscheme of things. We can always applaud and admire a vocal footballing fanbase, but these voices are falling on deaf ears without effective action.
Rafa Benitez being simply allowed to leave Newcastle United is damaging, and his departure has been frankly mourned by many outside the club. Ex-players like Steven Gerrard and Ian Wright, commentators like Jake Humphrey and personalities like Ant & Dec have all lambasted the decision by management, and for their poor treatement of the former UCL winning Coach. A varied list of replacements including Sean Dyche, Patrick Vieria, Joey Barton, and David Moyes have been rumoured, but each as Newcastle manager will be drinking from a poisoned chalice. The standards set by Benitez will be the constant comparison, and perhaps only more record signings or movement up the Premier League table will appease a notoriously difficult fanbase.
But remember, this is Newcastle United under Mike Ashley, so will that really be happening any time soon?