It was another away victory for Rafa Benitez and Newcastle United yesterday as they fairly comprehensively beat Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City side 2-0 in South Wales and with the victory came a new record, a 14th away win in the season. The previous holder of the record was Kevin Keegan’s ‘entertainers’ (although that label came the season after) when they chalked up 13 away wins in the 1992/93 promotion season.
As for the game, the first half was a bit of a non-event, both sides had chances to score but it was a pretty bland affair to say the least. However, the second half was a different story and Newcastle United, and in particular Christian Atsu and Isaac Hayden, showed their class with two top drawer finishes to win the game – we dominated the second half and showed just how well we can play despite missing a few key players.
A lot has been said this season about the tactics that Rafa has employed in games; we are so negative and the refusal to play 2 up front – and I have been guilty of this myself but I am big enough to hold my hands up when I am wrong. At the time of writing (Fulham are playing at the moment), we’re level with Fulham on 82 goals scored – the most in the league – 82 goals in 44 games so just under 2 per game. That’s not negative, that’s absolutely fantastic so fair play to Rafa and his tactics, for the most part he has got them spot on all season.
Newcastle were watched by 4200 fans which, given the match was on a Friday night, in South Wales and in front of the TV cameras is a pretty special following; not many teams in the country could better that but it was interesting to hear the Sky commentators lay in to the Newcastle United fans once again within minutes of the commentary starting. Apparently it was the most “subdued promotion party ever”. Utter rubbish, as normal and I for one will be glad to be playing Premier League football next season if only to get away from having to listen to the absolute drivel that the Sky EFL Championship commentary team comes up with every time Newcastle United play. For whatever reason, they have a real downer on us but we won, we were already promoted and now have an outside chance at getting the title – go analyse that!
Of course the title is going to be a tough ask and I am not expecting it to happen. However, I won’t be too disappointed if Brighton, as expected, win this evening at home to Bristol City to clinch the title. Brighton have been a great side this season and will fully deserve the title should they get it later on today. Of course, I am secretly hoping that Bristol City will pull off a shock and we head in to next Sunday’s final game of the season with the title chase still alive. Wouldn’t it be magnificent for Aston Villa to play a vital part in winning us the title? Oh that would be sweet!
I’m not going to comment on the goings on at Newcastle United over the last week and I think for legal reasons (and the fact that I am a financial and mathematical dunce) I won’t comment! The furore that occurred mid-week when it all came to light seems to have died down and I suspect if there is anything suspect going on, we won’t find out exactly what for a long time yet. I highly, highly doubt it will have an impact on the promotion or indeed next season but once again it goes to show it is never quiet around Newcastle United and the last thing you ever expect to happen, often happens.
What I will talk about is Rafa Benitez and whether or not he will stay. In January I predicted he would leave in the summer given what happened during the transfer window – granted, I formed an opinion based on what other Newcastle fans and the media were saying but I did also put my own spin on it and did not go along with the “Ashley has taken back control of transfers” scenario. I firmly believed, and still do, that if Rafa has been told he did not have control any more, he would have walked there and then.
I personally believe Rafa has always had control on the transfers but I also think that Carr, Charnley and indeed Ashley have a say – that is no different to any football club in the world and it is only right that a multi-million pound transfer is scrutinised from all angles – included the financial side of things. Did Rafa want Andros Townsend in January? 100% yes. Were Crystal Palace wanting at least their money back and dragging their heals over the transfer? Most likely. This is why the transfer didn’t happen and I said that at the time, if we could get Townsend back for less than what we paid then go for it, but if Palace were taking the mick and wanting to make a profit after 6 months on a player who (at the time) wasn’t playing football then we should walk away – and that is exactly what we did. Would Townsend have won us the title? It is hard to answer that but I suspect we would have picked up a few more points with him in the side given the way he has played the last half of the season but I genuinely don’t get the Townsend love-in. He played well for 6 months and left as we were relegated – there are better players than Andros Townsend around.
Anyway, back to my point. I think Rafa will stay. I hope I am not proved wrong and as we all know, we can’t predict anything at Newcastle, especially under Ashley but I think Rafa will have his meeting with Ashley, he will be told that there is money, perhaps not 100s of millions but there is money to spend, and Rafa will stay. Rafa loves the club, you could tell that after the Cardiff City game when he was interviewed on the pitch by NUFC TV and there is absolutely no doubt that the Newcastle United fans completely adore Rafa. In Rafa we have a manager who can rebuild and reshape the club we all love. I trust him completely. He is one of us.