Obtaining the services of Rafa Benitez was a major coup for Newcastle United. His managerial record is top class, demonstrating his ability to successfully manage clubs both home and abroad. Unfortunately, he was not engaged in sufficient time to prevent relegation at the end of the 2015/6 season.
Despite relegation, the reaction of supporters showed at our final game of the season against Spurs how highly we, the supporters, rated him. We know from sources close to Rafa that he was taken aback by the response of fans at that game, which contributed, in no short measure to him deciding to stay and manage us in the Championship. For that, we will always be eternally grateful. He galvanised our support and gave back a feeling of pride to both supporters and the City itself. Instead of struggling like many relegated teams, he led the club to immediate promotion as Champions.
Rafa sees Newcastle United as a long term ‘project’, he ‘gets’ the club and its supporters. He knows exactly what Newcastle United means to its supporters and what a successful club would mean for the city and the wider region.
During 2015 Newcastle United Supporters Trust ran a campaign asking “Whose Club Is It?” We organised a conference about fan engagement. It was attended by fans from all over the country and launched our manifesto about how we wanted OUR club, Newcastle United, to become a “Community Club”.
What we want is :-
· a club that will work with supporters on fan issues and will recognise their value as the long term custodians of the club;
· a club that will work with our MPs, the City Council and local businesses to play its part in regenerating our area rather than simply billboarding a national sports retailer;
· a club that will work with local football clubs and schools to develop local talent and keep that talent in the North East;
· a club that says we can compete, we will compete, we don’t reward mediocrity, we strive for excellence and to be the best we can be in everything we do.
During the Ashley years our club has failed to hit any of those points. Supporters have been ignored, the Supporters Trust banned from the club’s Fans Forum, local newspapers banned from the ground for reporting the fans protests. Failed relationships between the club hierarchy and both local and national politicians. A football recruitment policy that was based on bringing in young inexperienced players promised stepping stone deals which would provide the club with a tidy profit further down the line. A club policy and reward system aimed at mid table mediocrity with no interest in competing for trophies because they didn’t bring big enough cash rewards.
Compare all of that to the Rafalution. He’s invited fanzines and fan groups in to talk to him about what’s important to fans, he’s reorganising the way the Academy works with a view to bringing through more of our own talent, Lee Charnley is actively involved with local politicians and businesses through the Newcastle Gateshead initiative, Newcastle United Supporters Trust has been invited back to the Fans Forum, Rafa is responsible for football business and Graham Carr has now left the club. Rafa is not aiming for mediocrity, he has a plan for OUR club to be competitive in the premier league and to win trophies. He is 57 and could be winning trophies elsewhere but he believes that he can do it at Newcastle United. He believes.
Mike Ashley has recently spoken about his tenure as owner of Newcastle United and opened up about the many of his regrets and failures during that tenure. He admitted to failing to give his support to previous managers. He wishes to sell Newcastle United. We would respectfully suggest that he has no real interest in the club or the region. However, whilst still at the helm of Newcastle United we would call upon him to support Rafa by honouring the promises he has made to him. We cannot afford to lose him as manager. At this moment in time, along with our support, he is the greatest asset we have.