It’s official! We can stop watching Sky Sports News on the loop, refreshing our Twitter feeds every 30 seconds, and rolling our eyes at bogus ITK accounts spewing out their usual, monotonous claptrap; Rafa Benitez is officially Newcastle United’s new manager!
In a week that has been high on talk but short on action, the Newcastle hierarchy finally took decisive action on Friday by parting company with stricken head coach Steve McClaren after his near week long stay of execution and appointing Benitez in his place just a few short hours later.
Significantly, Rafa arrives at St James’ Park with the tag of ‘manager’, as United’s decision makers tardily concede that the much-maligned head coach model they have stuck to so stubbornly over recent seasons is not fit for purpose.
Backroom staff Paul Simpson, Alessandro Schoenmaker and Steve Black follow McClaren out of the door, however, assistant coach Ian Cathro and goalkeeping coach Paul Smith will remain on Tyneside, working alongside incoming staff Fabio Pecchia, Francisco Moreno and Antonio Perez under the former Liverpool manager’s new regime.
Benitez joins on an initial three-year contract, albeit with a release clause should the 19th placed Magpies suffer relegation, and the 55-year-old immediately sent an impassioned message to the United faithful, urging them to give him and the players their full support between now and the end of the season, before signing off with an ardent battle cry, ‘C’mon Toon Army! The Club and I need your total involvement!’.
As fans rejoiced at the official announcement of Benitez’ appointment, the sagacious Spaniard hastily made his way to United’s Benton training ground, where he met the Magpies’ fragmented squad for the first time and swiftly made the decision to put them through their paces out on the pitch – scrapping initial plans for the players to have the day off, as he aims to accustom himself with his new playing staff as quickly as possible.
How the club have managed to secure the services of a highly decorated manager who was coaching ten time European Champions Real Madrid just over two months ago is a mystery that even Sherlock Holmes and Watson would struggle to decipher, however, Benitez’ monumental arrival has breathed new life into a previously crestfallen fan base, and the buoyant Toon Army will now head into the last 10 games of the 2015/16 campaign brimming with optimism rather than dread.
Where there was previously resignation there is now hope and, although Newcastle still face an uphill battle to maintain their Premier League status over the remaining two months of the season, having Benitez at the helm means that a team that looked dead and buried following last Saturday’s 3-1 surrender to Bournemouth is now in with a fighting chance of survival.
Rafa’s reign gets underway in Monday night’s huge top vs bottom clash with prospective champions Leicester City at the King Power Stadium, and the Spaniard will be looking to start his Magpies’ career with a bang by upsetting the form book and putting a spoke in the Foxes’ wheel.
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