Another window closes and I’m left, once again, with an overwhelming sense of dread. Ashley has lied to yet another manager, the fans have been duped again and the state of confusion and negativity that Ashley seems to enjoy directing has ONCE AGAIN enveloped a significant section of the fanbase. When Pardew was in charge I never got as riled about his treatment (given his public displays of sycophantic dedication to his paymaster) as I do now about that being dished out to Rafa by the axis of shite, the swinging-dick, macho 70s jobs-for-boys bastards of Barnes, Bishop and Ashley.

Rafa Benítez is a world class football coach. His record is one of the best in the business. He is a man of integrity and honour. He could’ve left Newcastle after relegation and walked in to another job. If it had been about the money he could’ve gone to China and trebled his salary. He wanted to stay at Newcastle United because of the untapped potential. He saw NUFC as a long-term project, a club that needed a root and branch change that he was willing to direct. He ultimately saw a day in a not-too-distant future in which NUFC would once again be challenging for honours. He set out a vision for the club, a realistic plan and he presented it to Ashley. He was convinced that Ashley was behind him. I was with Rafa 100% of the way – if it was good enough for him then it was certainly good enough for me. I was so disillusioned with the consistently abject mismanagement of the club from the summer of 2004 up to McLaren’s sacking that I had barely bothered attending a match during the period. The appointment of Benítez, a coach I had followed since his early days at Valencia (living in Spain during his glory years at the club in which the Barcelona/RM hegemony was temporarily smashed), sucked me right back in. This was the manager of whom I told a mate back in 2002 that I wanted to see at Newcastle after Robson, and a manager who, by February 2016, I thought was way beyond our reach.

 

Last summer was fantastic. Rafa got the players he wanted, got rid of many of those who clearly didn’t want to be here, made a profit and was assured that he’d have money to spend in January. January arrived and, as the ominous reappearance of the barrowboy-got-lucky Ashley had suggested, he wasn’t given the support he was promised. The non-arrival of Andros Townsend for what now looks like a very cheap fee of £13 million clearly pissed him off spectacularly. However, his professionalism ensured he got on with the job at hand and we still got promoted, even winning the Championship on the last day of the season in spectacular style. January was but a distant memory and the ‘every last penny’ promise seemed to appease Rafa. No-one expected £100 million but Rafa clearly thought there was enough to get on with the job in the way he wanted. And then Abraham and Caballero were set-up by Rafa. And they fell through. And the Lejeune deal took longer than it ought to have done. And the rumblings of discontent got louder and louder and culminated in the shitstorm that this transfer window (yet another transfer window) has been. Rafa kept his part of the bargain and has shipped out much of the parasitical deadwood. His colleagues in the board room couldn’t even get him a left back. A truly pathetic performance and, if Rafa walked, he’d have a nailed on case for constructive dismissal. He has had the piss well and truly taken out of him and ask yourself what you’d do if your boss had consistently lied to you and, I don’t believe I’m being hyperbolic here, publicly humiliated you by putting it out there that you were to ‘shut up and get on with it’.

 

The consensus at present is that Benítez is still here because he’s made promises to those lads he did bring in this summer and because of his bond with the fans. However, in here lies the possible crux. How does a fanbase express discontent with a regime whilst simultaneously supporting the team on the pitch and the management in the dugout? I know that my reappearance at matches and my reignited enthusiasm for the team is down to Benítez and his management. As long as he’s here I will be 100% unequivocal in my support of him and the team as, regardless of the charlatans he works for, he wants this club to win football matches and the squad of players he has contains a majority who genuinely care and give there all on the pitch. I am in no doubt that as long as Benítez is here we’ll have no trouble staying up. Just staying up won’t be enough for him though and, given his record and standing in the game, why should it be? If Benítez walks and/or leaves us for a club with ambitions befitting a manager of his stature will we continue to accept ‘just staying up’?

Norman Riley

@Likethegoat