In the 2008-09 season, Alan Shearer was not given enough time to achieve the seemingly impossible as he had just 8 games to prevent the drop. Seven years later and Newcastle United made the same mistake again as Rafael Benitez was given only 10 matches to maintain Newcastle’s status as a Premier League club and even a manager of Benitez’s calibre couldn’t prevent the inevitable as Newcastle United were relegated.
Things would have been a lot different in Tyneside now if owner Mike Ashley had appointed Rafael Benitez much earlier than March. Ashley’s patience with Benitez’s predecessor Steve McClaren was, even more, surprising than the appointment of the former England manager in charge of the Magpies in the first place. Now, the million dollar question is can Newcastle secure promotion and jump right back into the Premier league?
Many would feel the Toon army are the favourites to win the Sky Bet Championship which would help them secure automatic promotion. The championship is a really competitive league and securing promotion may not be easy as it seems, but the Magpies will most certainly do it and here are a few reasons why the football universe fancy them to return to the English top-flight next season.
The belief in Rafael Benitez
The Spaniard has managed some of the best clubs in Europe like Liverpool, Chelsea, and Real Madrid and he is one of those few managers whose reputation goes before him. Benitez has won all major European trophies in addition to the La Liga, FA Cup, and Coppa Italia. Newcastle United fans would have breathed a sigh of relief when the club had confirmed that Benitez will stay and help the club secure promotion and the fans themselves have had a huge role in the former Valencia manager’s decision to extend his stay.
Steve McClaren won just 6 out of the 28 premier league games he was in charge of and could only pick up 24 points. Benitez picked up 13 points from 10 games as the Magpies finished last season with a 6-match unbeaten run and the final game of the campaign saw them demolish Tottenham Hotspur 5-1 at the St James’ Park.
This underlines the impact that Benitez has had and the fans have every reason to be optimistic about the club’s chances of returning to the premier league next season. Even though Newcastle lost their first game of the championship against Fulham, many believe that come next May, the club would have clinched promotion.
The squad at Benitez’s disposal
To be fair to Steve McClaren, the previous summer transfer window had a significant role in turning his reign into a nightmare for the fans and Newcastle’s relegation was a result of mismanagement from the top. It’s hard to digest the reality that, the club was relegated after spending about £80 million in the summer and winter transfer windows combined.
The Magpies signed a few good players in the summer transfer window who had no Premier League experience and a number of them failed to hit the ground running with the likes of Florian Thauvin and Aleksander Mitrovic failing to have the impact many had expected.
Rafael Benitez agreed to extend his stay only after receiving assurances over the financial backing he would receive and the degree of control he would have over the club. The Spaniard has made some interesting signings this summer. Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle have arrived from Bournemouth and Crystal Palace respectively, and Newcastle paid £10m each for their services.
Ritchie was arguably the player of the season in the Championship in the 2014-15 season having found the back of the net 15 times and recorded 18 assists in a campaign that saw Bournemouth get promoted. The Toon have also signed Jesus Gamez from Atletico Madrid and Grant Hanley from Blackburn Rovers.
Even though Moussa Sissoko is likely to leave and, Liverpool and Palace have lured away Georginio Wijnaldum and Andros Townsend respectively, Newcastle have managed to retain some key players. One would feel the core of the squad is still intact and Benitez has a squad which is capable of winning the championship. One season in the championship is what might catalyse the emergence of Ayoze Perez into a player who would be on the shopping list of the big clubs in Europe in the future.
The bottom line
At least, a few of the Newcastle United fans would have wondered what if the club fails to secure promotion and turn into another Leeds United or Nottingham Forest. Even that thought would have send shivers down their spine. Newcastle's best chance of securing promotion is in this season and they should make it count. They have one of the best managers in Europe in charge, they have spent well in the transfer market and have arguably the best squad in the Championship, at least their wage bill says so.
But, the manager’s reputation and the wage bill won’t guarantee promotion. It’s all about points and Newcastle need to bounce back straight away from the loss in their first game of the season. Hopefully, Newcastle will achieve their target and Mike Ashely would get his act together and equip Benitez to guide the club into the top half of the premier league next season which is where Newcastle United belong.