Newcastle United and their supporters endured a difficult 2015-16 season, eventually ending in relegation to the Championship. In March, Newcastle owner Mike Ashley hired former Liverpool and Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez to lead the squad to safety during the final stretch of the campaign.
The Magpies managed to overcome initial difficulties and finished the season on a six-match unbeaten streak. However, the results were not enough to keep Newcastle in the Premier League.
Relegation to the Championship immediately triggered speculation regarding Rafa’s future at St. James Park, as the three-year deal he signed was certainly with the intention of being a part of Premier League football.
Contrary to expectations, Benitez chose to stay on.
“This is a huge club and I wanted to be part of the great future I can see for Newcastle United”, the Spanish manager said this past May.
Benitez fully expects the club to achieve promotion immediately, just as they did during the 2009-10 campaign.
The statements made seem to suggest that if a return to the Premier League does not take place, he may decide to move on from Tyneside. But there is enough in the current situation to assume that the likelihood of this scenario happening is low.
We look at why Rafael Benitez could be at Newcastle United for a long time to come.
Newcastle United have consistently been amongst the highest attendance numbers throughout English football and recent times have been no exception.
Generally between 45,000 and 50,000 on average, the Toon make St. James Park one of the top stadium atmospheres in the United Kingdom.
Benitez understands the potential of what the club can achieve with success on the pitch is sky-high, and a return to the Premier League in 2017-18 could be the start of something special.
Newcastle’s run to the quarterfinals of the 2012-13 UEFA Europa League showcased their abilities on the European stage, and eventually making their way to the UEFA Champions League will certainly be a goal in the coming years.
ROSTER QUALITY AND OWNERSHIP INVESTMENT
Relegation to the Championship brought significant changes to the Newcastle lineup over the summer.
Georginio Wijnaldum, Moussa Sissoko and Andros Townsend all decided to move on, but the transfer fees received will ultimately only go on to aid a talented roster upon their return to the top flight.
Jonjo Shelvey, Yoan Gouffran, Ayoze Perez and leading goal-scorer Dwight Gayle have all been in excellent form this season.
A five-match unbeaten run saw Newcastle outscore their opponents 15-2. The club currently sit fifth in the league table and are four points behind leaders Norwich City.
Players like Tim Krul, Florian Thauvin and Siem de Jong are out on loan for the current season and could again contribute down the line.
Whether this is with future transfer fees or a return to the Northeast, Newcastle have handled the tricky business of player relations during relegation in a smart way.
For all of owner Mike Ashely’s antics since purchasing the club in 2007, the right investments, players and transfer fees could equal success in the near future.
Since his time in Merseyside managing Liverpool, Benitez’s family has lived in England and he has enjoyed his time in the country. There is a sense that he wants to build something at Newcastle and is in this project for the long haul.
A dedicated and talented manager who can be part of a successful future could be just what the Magpies need moving forward.
A strong league start and a good chance of moving on to the EFL Cup quarterfinals next month have Newcastle United feeling confident.
With Rafael Benitez likely staying on no matter the outcome of 2016-17, the club will be a contender in the Premier League once again.