The three-year contract that Rafa Benitez signed with Newcastle when he realised no one better was going to come calling in the near future seems a little fanciful. Including interim/caretaker managers the Toon Army have seen twenty different changes in management in the last twenty years. There have been some repeats in there but it’s still not a record which smacks of stability and strong leadership.
Not that Rafa is necessarily going to fail at a club which is clinging desperately to top tier life. If he keeps the club up he’s a hero, if they go down he has Steve McClaren to take the blame. Which it seems is McClaren’s greatest talent these days.
Only a half-wit fortune teller drunk on methylated spirits would confidently offer a prediction of how the former Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid manager is going to fare over the course of his tenure at the club.
However we are going to make a prediction about how he’ll get on in his first game in charge. Which just happens to be an away game to the league leaders Leicester, who comfortably won 3-0 at St James’ Park earlier this season.
Going back to 1980 when Artur Cox took over from interim manager Joe Harvey, Newcastle have had twenty permanent managers including Rafa.
Of the 19 men (well technically 18 with Kevin Keegan having had two spells) who took control of the club before him only four lost on their first competitive game in charge.
Bobby Robson, Ruud Gullit, Alan Shearer and Osvaldo Ardiles are the guilty parties.
The other fifteen debut games resulted in ten wins and five draws. It seems the Toon Army responds pretty well to that new manager smell.
Given the current form of Leicester and Newcastle it’s not a surprise to see the visitor’s as underdogs in tonight’s game. A bet that could be worth a small flutter if you fancy Rafa to inspire his new charges from the off.
Given the record of previous bosses backing Newcastle and the draw in the double chance market at 7/5 looks the bet to make.
Leicester have also only won three of their last seven home games. Their last four games have been extremely tough battles and it wouldn’t be a massive surprise if this is similarly tight. Newcastle could look to sit back and defend which will stifle the natural counter-attacking style of Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City.
One final little fact. Jack Charlton made his managerial debut for Newcastle away to Leicester back in 1984. A game the Magpies won 3-2.