It wasn’t just Newcastle’s drop that was surprising back in May 2016, it was rather the emotional attachment it saw with Coach Rafa Benitez who had, with just a few weeks left to the end of the season, been charged with the task of designing an escape route for The Magpies.
He failed to guide the club to safety but in the process of taking on the mission impossible, the Spaniard made them play the kind of football that would render their fall easier to take. Although losing is bad, doing it while playing poorly have proven to be more painful than doing it while playing with heads held high and dignity intact. The changes to the playing style have made tickets to Newcastle United matches amongst the most sought after.
The Spaniard would later declare his intention to stay, by pledging to be in for the whole ride even at the risk of his reputation. I mean had Newcastle drowned deeper in the second tier of English football, how could it be that a once UEFA Champions League winning manager got relegated from the English Championship?!
It may seem impossible but do not forget how camel-through-needle like it is to convince even average players to join you in the lower leagues. Most times it’s about making do with what you have and using your own managerial expertise to extract as much as you can from individual squad members. Yet Benitez made the decision to stay. And it paid off. The Magpies won the championship and a straight qualification to the Premier League next season.
As next season beckons, the Spaniard will even aim higher at pushing his way all through after all he once ran the damn league with Sir Alex Ferguson plus managers who he may consider as equals are currently occupying the top 6 spots and how he would like to use Newcastle to frustrate them in times when the chase for precious points come around.