In this three part series with Mark Douglas, chief sports editor at the Chronicle, gives us the lowdown regarding his book “Inside the Rafalution“. How has being involved with Newcastle United affected him? What made him write the book? A few minor spoilers could come up, but it won’t ruin a fabulous book on the story of Rafa Benitez and Newcastle United.
– Charnley’s often in the media’s frame by name. Is he a good director for NUFC? How would you say your book portrays him?
I think the book’s portrayal is very fair. He has had a lot of criticism – I have doled some out as well, because he has made some mistakes – but when you get to know him, and I’ve met him a few times, then you realise he’s really not an abrasive, Derek Llambias-style character. And I think he wants to do the best for the club, even if he’s made mistakes.
What I’d like to see is the Charnley of last summer. I think that MD would be the best thing for Newcastle.
Look, he’s got a difficult, stressful job at a club that is very tough to run. And he’s not always had that much help doing it.
– You write a lot about Rafa’s philosophy and his training regime in the book. What do you think are the closest similarities between him and other two Newcastle greats, Sir Bobby and Keegan? And also, what’s their biggest differences?
He’s very similar to Sir Bobby in terms of his obsession with football – and I liked being able to reflect on the time he went to speak to people who are part of the foundation. Liz Luff was a big help in that.
He’s got the same charisma and impact as Keegan but they are very different in terms of their football philosophy. As I map out in the book, Rafa’s got a football style that can be quite pragmatic at times. It’s based on really razor sharp logic which is impressive, but it’s not the true romance of the KK era is it?
It’s a new era and an exciting one.
– Mitrovic is mentioned on a few occasions, I particularly enjoyed the part where you write that he took in an extra finishing specialist to help him on movement. Is he someone Rafa would initially buy if he wasn’t already here, and does Rafa still think there’s a chance he can become the finished article?
Rafa and Mitro: the bromance! It’s been hilarious to watch Rafa, the guy who Steven Gerrard said was quite cold, interact with Mitrovic. If anything illustrates Rafa has softened since his Liverpool days it’s the way he’s been with Mitrovic.
Rafa’s relationship with his players hopefully comes across in the book. They love him and he has respect for them too. I think Mitrovic is included in that but – as I said – Rafa is pragmatic and he didn’t want to build an attack around the Serbia striker. That meant Mitro was on the outside from the start. The book goes into a fair bit of detail about why he didn’t feature that much – and why Rafa didn’t sell him in January, even though certain things were bubbling away.
Would he have bought Mitro? Well he might because when Newcastle got him, he was featuring pretty highly on a lot of scout’s lists. There were a lot of clubs who thought he was a sure thing – even though his discipline was what put off the very top clubs. I actually think if Rafa had signed him and had him from the first day he was at Newcastle he’d be a very different player now.
I think he’s got a chance because they might not get many takers at the price they’re asking.
– Your chapter ”The Final Day”, goes through the motions of the day United became Champions. For me, that day mattered more than I could have imagined. It was hugely impressive how Rafa helped the players lower they shoulders to play a flawless game, while knowing it could potentially crown them champions. With some help of course. Can you give me two things that you remember best from that day, and why?
First of all, the atmosphere at the start. It was a carnival: full of hope and excitement. When Newcastle is supportive like that, they can achieve anything.
I also remember those presentations at the end. Rafa was absolutely pitch perfect – pointing at the medal then the crowd was just the most wonderful touch. But what I really, really liked was the cheer that Bob Moncur got. Bob’s such a fantastic guy and I hated the criticism he got for being supposedly too close to Mike Ashley when things were going badly. The roar that greeted him coming out to present the trophy was such a nice touch. It felt like a bit of a wound had been healed there.
I’d like to thank Mark for taking the time to answer these questions. Let’s hope there’s a follow up “Inside the Rafalution” next year. Considering he likes writing about a success story.
The book “Inside the Rafalution” is available for £9.99 on Amazon or in Waterstones, the Back Page or WH Smiths Newcastle. You can also get it for £7.99 from reception at Thomson House in Newcastle or from the sportmediashop.com (where you can buy it if you’re overseas).