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.
– How much would it take for Rafa to up and leave NUFC? What’s the current state of the relationship between Rafa and director/owner?
The final chapter of the book makes it pretty clear that Rafa wants to stay. He’s interested in making Newcastle successful and he feels a duty to the people he’s met who care deeply about United. But he knows that those people respect him because he has the best interests of the club at heart. For Newcastle to succeed under him they have to be challenged and pushed. I think that’s what he’s doing at the moment. There’s no doubt that he’s feeling a bit frustrated at the lack of progress in the transfer market so far.
I think leaving Newcastle would be a nuclear option for him and he’s not ready to press that button just yet. But if they try to mug him off – and by that I mean break the promises made in May – he may very well walk away.
Things are a bit tense at the moment. It’s a bit of a ‘wait and see’ situation – which is a shame because a few weeks ago it all felt resolved. Remember Rafa signed off his statement in May that fans should ‘Enjoy their summer’ – something has changed since then. I still think it’ll be resolved but it feels a bit more fragile than it just.
– Is there anything in the book you would pull out as a part that impresses you the most about Rafa? Maybe something which isn’t talked too much about?
Rafa’s work ethic. I say quite early in the book that he signed over his life to Newcastle when he committed to the club after relegation. There’s a few little stories in the chapter about Rafa’s philosophy that illustrate that.
His backroom staff are very impressive as well. I hope the book gets across how important they are. ‘Paco’ Moreno is a key part of what Rafa is doing – he’s a bit of an unsung hero of the promotion season. Well, he’s not if you read the book!
– In what area do you think NUFC lack the most? Something you think needs the most improvement?
I still think the club is miles behind where it should be in terms of facilities like the training ground and the Academy. When you consider what Manchester City have done and what even clubs like West Ham are building, it makes you realise United have Premier League rivals effectively building campuses for their players. Newcastle’s training ground upgrade has been in the pipeline for about four years and just recently they said there was no date agreed for it. That’s a worry for me. You’ve had this era of financial largesse in English football and it might pass Newcastle by with very little to show from it.
– In your chapter ”January Blues”, you write about Charnley having an almost impossible enviroment to work in, when the January window created tension between Ashley and Rafa. Do you think that’s the case more often than we know? The fact that Charnley has to step in and having his position so distraught by the actions of Ashley or others?
I think Lee Charnley’s an interesting character. Rafa likes him and trusts him and the summer before this one he seemed to have ‘cracked it’. He was getting the deals right, he was doing business quickly and working really well with Rafa.
But January illustrated to Rafa that Charnley’s power only goes so far. If Mike Ashley gets involved then it becomes complicated. As you see in the book, there was more going on in January than first appeared.
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).