“If anyone criticises any of our players you must realise, we aren’t signing first on our list, or second or third. We sign players that are available and make sure they give everything. They care, WE MUST SUPPORT THEM, even if they make mistakes” was the plea from manager Rafa Benitez amidst the frustrations of Newcastle’s transfer window thus far.
It is an insight into the parsimonious regime of controversial owner Mike Ashley, which Magpies supporters are very well accustomed to; albeit it had dragged on too far, with the biggest television deal in sport ensuring that all Premier League clubs have a significant transfer war-chest.
Clubs such as West Ham United, Southampton and Fulham have all shown more ambition that Newcastle in the transfer window, with the latter club splashing out a record £30m fee to secure the services of sought-after midfielder Jean-Michael Seri.
Such clubs are those that United should be competing with at the very least, given the stature, fan base and prestigious manager. However the fact that it is not deemed possible is a real cause for concern.
With the way the window has panned out so far, it seems that money is somehow unavailable at St James’ Park and that funds must be generated by selling players before replacing them.
Even so, any potential incomings would be replacements, rather than reinforcements brought in to provide competition for the squad; which is what Benitez would like in an ideal world. Sadly, nothing is ideal at Newcastle under the current regime, while it seems that Ashley is sticking to the same, frugal instincts that irritated Rafa in the past two transfer windows.
The Spaniard seems content to work under system for the final twelve months of his deal, simply due to his love for the club and its supporters, while it is almost certain that this will be his last season at St James’ Park unless drastic amendments are made.
This is where the Toon Army can play their part in ensuring that the upcoming season is as successful as the last. United finished in a lofty 10th position in the Premier League in 2017/18, which was highly impressive for a newly-promoted team which was dubbed as Championship standard by many pundits.
The supporters turned up in their thousands both home and away, with a record number of season tickets being sold as well as selling out most away matches. United possess one aspect which was missing in years prior to Benitez – the backing of the manager.
This provides an element of unity, not only has Rafa re-connected the club with the fans, he has also brought the city together as one, all in support of their football club; with the energy that this brings fuelling the hunger of the players to succeed and fight for the black-and-white shirt.
In the two-and-a-half years Benitez has been at the club, the players have demonstrated more fight than many fans have seen in a long while; another aspect that was not present before the manager arrived.
Supporters have begun a movement on social media – #IfRafaGoesWeGo – a faction of supporters who are sympathetic of the treatment of Benitez and aim to send a message to Mike Ashley to back the manager or risk losing everything; all the hope and ambitions that fans were enthralled with when Rafa took over.
Should Benitez walk – be it at the end of his contract or before it – this will be a calamitous moment in the history of Newcastle United. The only saving grace at the current moment are the fans.
On the final day of the 2015/16 season in which relegation was already confirmed, Newcastle fans packed out St James’ Park and sang 90 minutes straight in support of Benitez in an attempt to prevent him from leaving the club; which he had every right to do. That was one of the most impressive atmospheres St James’ Park has seen in recent years and was a huge factor in Benitez remaining as manager, while it is moments like that which can potentially shape the future.
There is no doubt about the loyalty and passion of the Newcastle supporters, who have been praised by senior players such as Jamaal Lascelles as well as by Rafa Benitez. They must maintain their fervent support for the club throughout the season in order for Ashley too see the huge potential of the club managed by Rafa Benitez and backed appropriately.
Written by Dawud Arshad
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