Last week signalled the one year anniversary of Rafa Benitez becoming manager of Newcastle United. Here we will review his time at the club.
The appointment and first match
On Friday 11th March, Steve McClaren was officially sacked after a 3-1 defeat to Bournemouth. A few days before the sacking, it was known that Benitez was the ideal replacement, although at the time, that seemed very unlikely. But to the joy of many a Newcastle supporter, Rafa Benitez was officially announced as manager of Newcastle United. Although the going wasn’t going to be easy, it was a time for happiness. Benitez’s first act as manager was to call an immediate training session, which shows his desire to turn the club around.
Three days later, it was time for Rafa’s first match against Leicester. Although the match ended in 1-0 loss, the signs of improvement were clear to see. Newcastle played much better and only lost out to an offside goal from Okazaki.
The remaining matches
Next up was Rafa’s first match at St James’ Park, which came in the form of a match against Sunderland, the tension couldn’t be higher. The match ended in a 1-1 draw with a dramatic late header from Mitrovic to level the scores. After that came a hugely disappointing 3-2 loss to Norwich, the less said about that the better. Again another match not worth talking about, a 3-1 loss to Southampton.
Next match was when Newcastle really turned the style on, a 3-0 win against Swansea. After that was a seemingly difficult home match against Manchester City. This match ended 1-1 but Newcastle should count themselves unlucky not to win. The next match was a trip to Anfield. It was a happy return for Rafa as his side came back from 2-0 to win 2-2.
Now there was only three games remaining and the pressure was being cranked right up. A home match against Crystal Palace and a return for Pardew was in store. A saved penalty from Cabaye and a goal from Townsend later and Newcastle came out three points better off. Next came a frustrating 0-0 draw to Aston Villa that all but sealed Newcastle’s relegation.
Finally, the season ended with a massive 5-1 win against Tottenham. This match was very important for a different reason, this would be the match that decided whether Rafa would stay or not. The fans sung Benitez’s name for the full 90 minutes which convinced him to say. With the season over and Newcastle relegated to the Championship, it was time for a rebuilding period over the summer.
The transfer window
The transfer window was a summer of great spending and a few big money sales. Newcastle signed no less than 12 players, totalling over £50 million spent. Dwight Gayle, Matt Ritchie, Matz Sels, Grant Hanley, Ciaran Clark, DeAndre Yedlin, Mo Diame, Achraf Lazaar, Daryl Murphy, Isaac Hayden, Jesus Gamez were all signed permanently with Christian Atsu was signed on loan. Going out the other way were Moussa Sissoko, Georginio Wijnaldum, Daryl Janmaat, Papiss Cisse, Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini. The departees raised over £85 million, making a profit of £30 million even after spending £50 million on players. After the transfer window, the squad was ready to take on the new challenge of the Championship.
The Championship campaign
Newcastle opened their Championship adventure with an away trip to Fulham, the night ended in disappointment with a 1-0 loss. Things didn’t get any better with a 2-1 loss to Huddersfield in the next match. After that blip, Newcastle found their feet and smashed Reading 4-1. The highlights of this season have to be the 6-0 win against QPR, 4-3 win against Norwich, 2-1 against Brighton and a 3-1 win against Huddersfield. Although this season has been difficult at times, it’ll all be worth it at the end of the season when the team finally achieve promotion back to England’s top tier.
Feature image credit: Martin Le Roy