Magpies fans have long been unhappy with the way Newcastle’s millionaire owner Mike Ashley, the man behind Britain’s Sports Direct chain, has run the club and the team’s troubles have been reflected in a managerial merry-go-round at St James’
There have been 10 Newcastle managers in the 12 years since the late Bonny Robson left in 2004, with Graeme Souness, Glenn Roeder, Sam Allardyce, Kevin Keegan (in his second stint), Joe Kinnear, Alan Shearer, Chris Hughton, Alan Pardew, John Carver and McClaren all coming and going.
For all their passionate support and ‘big club’ status, Newcastle have not won a major trophy since the 1969 European Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, a forerunner of the Europa League.
They spent £29 million ($41 million, 37 million euros) on new players during the January transfer window in a bid to avoid the drop but only Aston Villa are below them in the table, although the Magpies are just a point away from safety.
Former Liverpool, Newcastle and England striker Michael Owen, tweeting before Benitez’s appointment was confirmed, backed Newcastle to beat the drop.
“Rafa in the driving seat to replace McClaren,” Owen said. “Whoever takes over, I still expect Newcastle to stay up.”
Benitez, who guided Liverpool to Champions League glory in 2005, will have just days to get to know his new players before a formidably tough first match as Newcastle manager away to Premier League leaders Leicester on Monday.
His first home game in charge will be against local rivals Sunderland on March 20, one of the most significant Tyne-Wear derbies in years given the Black Cats are also battling to avoid relegation.