John Gibbons: Rafa was a beacon of hope to Newcastle fans in a shower of sh**e

Rafa and the Toon Army were made for each other, says John Gibbons.


Rafael Benitez has finally left Newcastle after three years and three months in charge of the club.

I say finally, because that is about three years and two months longer than I thought he would stay, given Rafa’s well known ability to fall out with anyone and owner Mike Ashley’s ability to piss off anyone. So maybe Newcastle fans should be pleased they got as long as they did.

I’m sure that is not the general feeling of the Toon Army at the moment.

I would imagine it is a mixture of anger, sadness and regret. All stemming from the fact that a battle between a manager who had great ambitions for their club and an owner who seemingly has none except for how many adverts for his sports retail business he can attach to the stadium, has been won by the owner.

Or maybe there are no winners in this. Only losers.

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Mike Ashley rarely loses in business. Yet this time he might live to regret parting company with the best manager he is likely to attract, and his guarantee of Premier League income year by year, for the sake of guarantees of investment and greater control for a world-class manager he doesn’t deserve.

Whoever takes charge will have a tough job keeping that squad with little investment in the Premier League, especially playing in front of a growingly disillusioned supporter base.

Those supporters are certainly losers.

They have lost a manager who they believed in and believed in them. Who thought Newcastle United was a club capable of more, but eventually gave up the fight to prove it. Who was a beacon of hope in a shower of sh**e.

A man who sees football fans as people to make happy has gone and all that is left is a man who sees football fans as revenue. I’m not sure how they get up for next season. How they hand their money over again. I’ve been there.

Rafa Benitez is a loser too. After leaving Liverpool he has travelled far and wide in search of a home and a project and he finally seemed to have found one.

He understood the Geordies and they understood him.

Whilst others wrongly saw a cold impersonal man who shows little emotion, Newcastle fans saw the warm, gentle, yet steely man who loved nothing more than figuring out a way to win football matches – especially against the odds.

He will have hated leaving that, he knows it isn’t easy to find. That bond between manager and supporter base.

Strangely considering he won European trophies at both Liverpool and Chelsea, Rafa Benitez has probably never left an English club with his reputation so high.

That says as much about how he was underestimated at those clubs by the wider world as the acknowledgement that he drained as much from this Newcastle squad as he possibly could. Now the next time a manager’s job comes up at an English club he’ll be top of the wish list of almost all of them.

But, he should still be at Newcastle. There was a manager and supporter base who wanted to be together and have been driven apart by the greed of an owner who seemingly doesn’t want to invest but also doesn’t want to sell.

I can’t imagine what that is doing to those in black and white, because it depresses the hell out of me.

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What do you think?