Why Rafa Benitez took the challenge at Newcastle


For Newcastle United, the idea of hiring Rafa Benítez makes all the sense in the world. A proven “big
club” manager, whose tactics have been useful to maximizing results. For a club facing a strong likelihood of
relegation to the Championship, it would be wise to make such an appointment.

But why exactly would Benítez want to manage Newcastle United? That question is confounding to just
about everyone who watches and analyzes this sport. The Magpies find themselves mired in the
relegation zone having dramatically overspent on players this season. Sacked manager Steve McClaren
failed miserably in his effort.

Newcastle United, as a club, is a complete mess under the leadership of owner Mike Ashley. A common
complaint has previously been the low level of spending by the team, but that isn’t the case anymore.

More apparent is the toxic atmosphere around the club with supporters brandishing Ashley and his
advisors a “cockney mafia” who have parachuted into the Northeast and undermined their club.
But Ashley has somehow kept Newcastle United a viable business despite inheriting a mess when he
bought the club in 2007. The relegation of 2009 was followed up by swift promotion back to the Premier
League and a fifth place finish two seasons later. But since then the Magpies have flirted with relegation
every season, the patience of even the most dedicated supporter has been tried.

Support for the Magpies is among the most robust and energetic in the country. Newcastle is a one club
town and due to this as well as the close proximity to a major rival in Sunderland, who often is in the
same mire, the intensity of the fans is perhaps unrivaled in England. But the club has historically
underachieved. The last major domestic trophy was won in 1955, the last trip to a Wembley final was in
1999 and except for the Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson eras, the club has more often than not been
the butt of jokes. Newcastle has a tendency to spit out players and managers, many of whom are
successful prior to joining the club and then find similar success at another club after leaving the

This dynamic makes any move to Newcastle by player or coach a significant risk. It is an even greater risk
for someone like Benítez who has endured a bumpy ride in the halls of management over the last

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  1. David Bland March 12, 2016
    • Christopher Harris March 12, 2016

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