The real battle for survival starts today. Newcastle have flirted with relegation battles the last two seasons but under the guidance of a world class manager have managed to avoid being sucked in, and in 2018 managed to break into the top 10 despite being chronically underfunded.

Having effectively turfed out a highly talented and much-loved manager (sounds familiar, right?) the club now face a predicament we are (ridiculously) used to. Mike Ashley has plunged the football club into chaos once more.

The fanbase understandably are – and should be – enraged by this. I myself have gone through a whole range of emotions in the last 12 hours ranging from anger, denial, sadness and even a weird Stockholm Syndrome-esque 2 minutes where I even wondered if Rafa had strung us all along just to run off to China for the bags of ludicrous cash.

However, behind all of this I’ve tried my best to maintain two things in my mind – things Rafa has drummed into us as a fanbase over the last three and a half years. Stay calm and stay with the team. Rafa leaving is a cruel blow and one we should have seen coming, though I, like I suspect many others, believed the two parties would find some way to come together even if it was only for the short term.

The simple lay of the land now is that following the club’s statement on Monday afternoon there is no way back and as a result our attention must turn to who will be his replacement. My initial thoughts on this are that it needs to be someone the fans can get behind – however (as has been pointed out) there aren’t many of these left that Ashley hasn’t angered.

It’s crucial whoever is appointed the fans get behind the team even if the manager isn’t to our tastes – Garry Monk I’m looking at you. The likes of Jamal Lascelles, Ayoze Perez, Paul Dummett, and Isaac Hayden have given so much to the football club over the last three years and they deserve our continued support, especially in a time of crisis. It’s crucial the club doesn’t become somewhere players just don’t want to play as it appeared to become under Carver and McLaren. That doesn’t mean I don’t think there should ramifications for another reckless move by Ashley, Charnley, etc. but perhaps it should be contained to every waking minute outside of the 90 the lads step onto the pitch.

The background noise to all this commotion of course has been the takeover – we’ve heard the Bin Zayed group making some very ballsy statements followed up with deafening silence.  We’ve been here before; belief a takeover is going to happen seems to be slipping away – but while no one is declaring it dead – I have hope, and that’s all we’ve got to cling to right now.

We’ve heard previously how our league position has affected potential takeovers with the threat of relegation putting potential suitors off the club. It’s for this reason I hope we don’t spiral into a 2008/2009 style meltdown now. We need to start the season off positively so that the £350 million price tag Ashley has slapped on the club doesn’t look like an enormous gamble.

This is why I think the real battle for survival begins now, I’ve heard other fans claim we need to “do a Sunderland” before Mike Ashley will leave. This is mental on several levels. Not least because two relegations, a micky mouse cup defeat, and losing a play-off final is, frankly, humiliating, but because we cannot allow the work Rafa has done at the club over the past three and a half years be undone by an explosion of pent up negative emotions towards the owner.

The most important thing is we stay in the Premier League. It might be soul destroying to watch us battle it out for 15th place but we must stay within touching distance of at least the top half for the day when Ashley leaves, which he will eventually…

This team and Rafa have been lauded for their achievements of comfortably avoiding the drop the last 2 seasons, if that was a magnificent achievement then the job just got exponentially more difficult.

I expect the turmoil to rumble on for a while yet. Charnley & co couldn’t even secure a manager they already had let alone convince a new one to walk into the madness. It would be no surprise if it was Neil Redfearn leading the team out against Arsenal.

As a fanbase we should follow Rafa Benitez’ two pieces of advice to us – at least till there is concrete news one way or another on the takeover.

Stay Calm.

Support the team.

They’re going to need us.

Andy Bolland