In July 2018, Rafa Benitez expressed his anger at the situation he found himself in at Newcastle as he struggled to improve his team in the transfer market.

Later that month, the Spaniard admitted it would take a “miracle” to keep the Magpies in the Premier League come the end of the 2018/19 season after he guided the side to 10th place the season before.

On May 13 2019, the Premier League season had ended and Benitez had delivered on his miracle, steering the Toon army to a 13th placed finish, 11 points clear off the drop and further endeared himself to the supporters.

But 24 hours ago it all turned sour at St. James’ Park with the announcement Benitez would leave the club when his contract expires at the end of June.

The former Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid boss worked wonders with the club, lifting the Championship title in 2017 and successfully retaining Premier League status in the subsequent two campaigns.

One of the most storied clubs in English football, Newcastle have long since fallen from the heights of European football and title challenges in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with relegations stunting the development of the club throughout the last decade.

Just when things were looking to be on the way up, this announcement has certainly not been met well by the passionate fan-base on Tyneside, with particular criticism leveled at owner Mike Ashley.

The 54-year-old has owned the Magpies for 12 years and is CEO of Sports Direct, which has led large portions of Newcastle supporters to grow unhappy with the way he has run the club.

From the very beginning, Ashley’s tenure has been nothing short of tumultuous with the controversy surrounding Kevin Keegan’s resignation as coach in 2008 that saw him unsuccessfully place the club back on the market.

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Ashley would later be made to pay Keegan £2million in compensation for mistreatment while he was at the club, with later appointments and sackings of the likes of club legend Alan Shearer and Chris Hughton were filled with controversy, too.

Talks of a lucrative takeover swept through the footballing world within the last month, but with nothing finalised as of yet this still remains a hugely important time in the club’s recent history.

Attentions will turn to a replacement for Benitez now, but they will be hard pressed to find a manager matching the reputation and quality of the Spaniard with the current managerial market quite thin.

Hughton would be an astute appointment should he be asked to return after he was removed from his post in similarly questionable fashion at Brighton and Hove Albion.

Legendary Dutch left-back Giovanni van Bronckhorst is said to be interested in the job should Newcastle come calling, while Steve Bruce and David Moyes are names that have been thrown around in this early stage.

The club simply cannot afford to hire one of the latter duo, or someone like Sam Allardyce who is simply recycled through clubs at the lower end of the Premier League.

Newcastle need a manager that will provide something different, someone that will carry the team forward in a pivotal period where they need to be starting to challenge for continental football once more.

The ultimate predicament that English clubs find themselves in is that the top six at the moment is unbreakable, but lower end clubs are spending more money and beginning to close that gap with Wolves just three wins shy of Manchester United.

Should the takeover go through, the best hire for Newcastle would be a young manager who can be given time to put a plan in place and work his team through the ranks of the Premier League. As a hypothetical, this would be a fantastic job for Frank Lampard to take on, but he is obviously set to make the gargantuan leap to Stamford Bridge to manage his former club Chelsea.

The Toon are undoubtedly now a favourite for relegation, but if the right moves are made between now and the start of the new Premier League season in August, they will have every chance of staying up and being able to deliver a stable future for the club.

 

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Nick Hughes
nick.hughesy6@gmail.com