It isn’t confirmed yet, but it is extremely likely that Rafa Benitez is going to take over from Steve McClaren as Newcastle manager in the coming days, with Sky and various other sources reporting as much. Although this appears a massive step down from Real Madrid and coaching some of the world’s best players, it is believed that Benitez wants a long term project and would favour a Premier League job. Newcastle United are a sleeping giant and the room for growth is enormous, especially with funds being allocated to squad building in recent windows. The task of keeping Newcastle in the Premier League will be a new one to Benitez, who is used to managing teams fighting for the top places, but if he manages to do it, Newcastle could become a force to be reckoned with.
Newcastle have only won six times this season and Steve McClaren hasn’t been able to change the losing mentality and he needed to be relieved of his duties. Although McClaren hasn’t been sacked yet, it appears to be only a matter of time, with Newcastle wanting to source his replacement before dismissing the current head coach. They don’t want a repeat of last season’s fiasco which led to them giving the job to John Carver, but the way they are treating McClaren isn’t defendable.
The Magpies are in a perilous position, being in 19th, with just ten matches left to play. They have the quality in the squad to be much higher and that is why a manager of Benitez’s ability is interested in the job, with the room for growth being the main selling point. McClaren has been limited tactically, especially away from home, where Newcastle are one of the worst sides in the Football League. They have only scored seven away goals, which is the lowest total in the top four divisions. Benitez is more tactically aware than McClaren and should be able to set the side up in a better shape.
The main questions arising over this move are how much power the Spaniard will have at the club, with Mike Ashely giving Graham Carr a lot of authority on transfers. Benitez won’t settle for the title of head coach, which is what McClaren currently holds, while the former Liverpool and Chelsea manager will want to bring in his own backroom staff. This means Newcastle will have to pay out for their third coaching staff in under 12 months. The Spaniard is an unlikely target for Newcastle under Ashely, having favoured British managers, who will accept less responsibility and a smaller salary. Benitez will want full autonomy and will be one of the highest managers in the league. However Newcastle have been awful for over 2 years and need a manager to deliver consistent top half finishes.
The coming days will be pivotal for the future of Newcastle United. They should have made a change after the Chelsea match, when they had a long break from fixtures, allowing the new manager to work with the players for a sustained period of time. There were few things that the Newcastle board could do at this point to try and secure their Premier League status, but bringing in a respected and decorated manager like Benitez is one of them. There are no guarantees of the club staying in the league, even with the former Real Madrid manager, but it should give the fans and squad a huge boost. The Spaniard won’t allow the squad to put in some of the awful performances they have under Pardew, Carver and McClaren. If this does go through as expected, it will be interesting to watch. Could this be the beginning of a brighter period in the history of one of England’s biggest club?