At last Rafa - something to shout about

Published: Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Let’s try one last time to have a sensible conversation with you Geordies.

I’ll start by repeating what I’ve always said - great club - terrific supporters. Both are unique in many ways. When we first started the Premier League project there was little we liked more than a trip to Newcastle. Again - I’ve said all this before - we were treated wonderfully well by Sir John Hall. We’d always have dinner the night before at Wynyard Hall talking football, philosophy and as the night wore on - complete nonsense with King Kev, Sir John and the 2 Freddie’s - Fletcher and Shepherd. It was brilliant.

You knew what you’d get on match day as well - a vibrant, exciting afternoon watching football that would ebb and flow, keeping you on the edge of your seat until the final whistle.

Keegan’s teams played with all the enthusiasm that he exuded as an individual. It was fun. It was a wonderful era and it deserved a better ending.

Sir John was at the heart of it all. He loved it - but as the wheels came off the project his reputation and ideals were trashed - as so often is the case. Few, of any, ever liked Freddie Shepherd. Fred was a really good friend of mine. He died having never recovered from what he believed to be the treachery of the sale to Mike Ashley. He was on a hospital bed - fighting for his life - when the deal went through. But let’s not forget how he was treated by Newcastle fans. Nothing was ever enough, despite the millions that he invested and once he’d sacked Sir Bob - well that really was the end. I loved Bob. We got on well, but Freddie was right - it was time - for many reasons that never became public - and nor should they.

I remember the relief when Mike Ashley took over. Now - let me say again - other than one trip on his plane from Newcastle to London - when he told me he was going to give Alan Shearer the manager’s job - and one evening in a Newcastle pub with the then chairman Chris Mort - I don’t know Ashley. I don’t approve of many of the things he’s done at the club - but the bottom line is - it’s his club and he can do as he wants. He can run it as he wants. It’s his.

I don’t like the owners at Coventry. They’ve ruined our club. We’re only a handful of games from not having a stadium to play in again. We play in League One. We played in League Two last season. We don’t know what Mark Robins feels about SISU because he never complains. He gets on with his job - doing his best in really trying circumstances. Lee Bowyer does the same at Charlton. There are deep problems at Sheffield United - but Chris Wilder simply gets on with his job. It’s the same at Wednesday. Gary Monk has got his hands tied at Birmingham, but what a good job he’s doing. It’s been chaos at QPR for years. How about Swansea? Cardiff? Wigan? The list is endless. There are problems for managers all over the country. What about what McCoist went through at Rangers?

I don’t read about the guys managing these and many other clubs ‘threatening to walk’ every 10 minutes. They simply do the job they’ve got to the best of their ability. They all know the rules - you really can walk if you’re unhappy - unless you’ve got to pay the owner £6m to get out of your contract - an owner that picked you up after you’d been sacked after 6 months in your last two jobs.

Newcastle are not going to compete with the top 6 in the PL any time soon - no matter who the owner is. The ‘big 6’ have gone away from the rest now. Do you remember the Venky’s taking over at Blackburn promising Champions League football in exchange for a £5m investment? It was laughable. Oh, and there’s another manager getting on with his job - Tony Mowbray - and look what he’s got to put up with.

Unless a ‘country’ buys Newcastle their supporters can forget about the Keegan/Dalglish/Robson year’s. They’re over. And let’s once again point out - Ashley has had Newcastle for sale for years now, but no-one wants to buy it. (yet!)

So what can Newcastle fans expect? Indeed - demand? I’d say a Cup run - minimum. That would excite everybody. Why not? For goodness sake - Newcastle aren’t going down, so why did Benitez make 11 changes at Watford and toss off another campaign? That isn’t Ashley’s fault. If he interfered with team selection and demanded a Cup run all hell would let loose. By the way, Palace are still in the Cup. They’ll expect to win at Doncaster - then a 1/4-final beckons. Their supporters will be on fire at that prospect. Why not Newcastle? It’s a disgrace that they’re out. There’s no reason they should be out. King Kev would never have allowed that. A Cup run won’t see Palace relegated. The momentum they get from it could easily see them finish top half.

Rafa wants money. He’s had money. He had £102m and the biggest budget in the Championship to get Newcastle back into the PL. Chris Hughton had nothing like his funds but got Brighton up - as he did Newcastle when he was in charge.

Spending money isn’t the answer to PL success. Are West Ham any better this season after a £100m spend last summer? Are Bournemouth?

Mike Ashley won’t ever win any popularity contests in Newcastle. Nor will I. For some reason Benitez continues to weave spells that have the locals transfixed by some of his nonsense. Now he doesn’t have to pay Ashley £6m to walk - he can do just that - or serve up a few more nights like Tuesday’s against City and return Newcastle to the days when James’ Park was jumping every week.

It’s too late for a Cup run this season. Next time round winning silverware should be the priority - whoever owns the club and whoever is managing the club. It’s too good a club for one man to try and convince us all that it would collapse without him. No it wouldn’t. No it wouldn’t.