Waking giants...

Published: Thursday, 02 February 2017

You know, I'm fairly certain I can hear the sound of waking giants all the way from Leeds and Newcastle, here in Qatar. Wonderful isn't it? Two of our most famous clubs, two 'proper' football clubs as Graeme Souness might say, at last - stirring.

Regulars know that Rafa the Gafa isn't my favourite. I've said many times that I believe he only manages for himself - for his own cv. Proof had to be the time he took on the Chelsea job (as revealed by yours truly and denied even by his closest confidantes!) after everything he'd previously said about the club and its fans. He'd take over at United if the price was right. I've argued often about the out-dated concept of 'loyalty', but some things you don't do.

That said - can I also repeat what I wrote when Benitez stayed at Newcastle last summer? I was both a little surprised, but also delighted for Newcastle fans, because whatever else, Benitez was the right man in the right place at the right time. He gave Geordies hope again and, so far, he's delivered.

Newcastle is a monster of a football club. I love it and I love everything about that football mad City, although I've always said that it's about

350 miles too far north of London for me! The Toon's rightful place isn't just in the Premier League, it's mixing it with the big boys at the top.

The trouble is, it's owned by a very ambitious man, who knows plenty about how to squeeze every last drop of sweat out of his workers, but not much about football.

For too long Mike Ashley and his small group of 'yes' men have run the club into the ground. Do you remember a gentleman called Tony Jimenez? The world eventually found out what a few already knew when he hitched his wagon to The Toon.

Tony turned up announcing that he was an 'expert' in player recruitment.

He was appointed vice-president in charge of that department. At an early Board meeting he made a presentation saying that he was going to start signing a steady flow of South American talent, nurture it, then sell the players on for good profit. It was Arthur Cox who asked 'how are you going to get them here Tony?' The reply was 'fly them in'. You couldn't make it up! What Cox meant, of course, was 'how do you intend to get them permits to come here and work?'  Tony and Mike hadn't thought about that!

Brilliant! That was plan A dead in the water. 

Ashley and his current error prone MD Lee Charnley, have always meddled and Newcastle fans have had little or nothing to celebrate during Ashley's ownership. But then came Rafa - and a suggestion of success at last for one simple reason - Benitez demanded full control of football matters at St James' Park.

Newcastle were flying under the new regime. We hadn't heard anything from Charnley or Ashley- until last night (Weds, after the 2-2 v QPR). For the first time Benitez aired public disappointment about an unsuccessful transfer window and carefully told us how he felt let down. I got the feeling he was warning us that the wheels might be about to come off. He obviously feels he needs more than he's got to get automatic promotion. I hope he's wrong - but when will the people that own and run that club learn? Back Benitez and he'll get you back.

At Leeds Garry Monk is doing a fantastic job - having set out similar rules - 'I'm in charge'.  Monk has brought a calm to Leeds that the modern day basket case version of a once mighty club had long since forgotten.

It's wonderful to see. Leeds should also be mixing it with the big boys at the top end of the Premier League. Why aren't they? For exactly the same reasons that Newcastle aren't - and I'm not just blaming mad Massimo for that - Ken Bates has to take his fair share of the blame. Far from being a saviour when he bought the club, Bates fell out with everybody as usual and all but killed it off, just as he previously had Chelsea. Let's never forget that when Roman Abramovich walked through the doors at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea were literally hours from going bust after years of Bully Bates stewardship. Leeds fans know I'm right about his time at Elland Road.

I wouldn't rule out Leeds getting up automatically. If they do it's Newcastle that could miss out - and Benitez knows it. As for Monk, he's a fine young British coach who was badly treated at Swansea. It's good to see him recovering his reputation.

I fancy Brighton to win the Championship and I'd be delighted for the Bloom brothers if they do. These two guys are 'football' people and they've delivered on everything they said they would. They've got a terrific manager in Chris Hughton (as Newcastle fans know only too well!) and I hope it's their turn after last season's near miss. The Blooms let Chris get on with his job.

So the lesson here is 'let football men do what they do best'. Businessmen should stick to what they know.  Would Mike Ashley let Rafa walk into Sports Direct and run it?  Of course not. History tells us every time Ashley, or more recently Charnley, get busy at Newcastle things go wrong.

I hope Benitez keeps them on course, but I fear he's trying to tell us he's not sure he can.