It’s been a difficult season for Newcastle. In fact, it’s been a difficult few years for the Magpies, and at present, there is little going right for the club. Problematic matters both on and off the pitch have made any chance of Newcastle returning to their past glories unlikely, at least in the short term, and that’s a shame. Newcastle are, of course, one of the more historic clubs in England, and it’s frustrating to see how far they have fallen.
Despite having the foundations for success at the club, between a mix of poor players, managerial uncertainty over the years and the role of Mike Ashley as the club’s owner, it’s been hard for the club to make the most of that.
However, all is not lost. In Rafael Benitez, they have a fantastic manager, and one that has proven his worth over the years managing clubs like Chelsea, Liverpool and Real Madrid. Furthermore, they’ve also got a dedicated as ever fanbase, with the St James’ Park faithful up there with the loudest and proudest in the Premier League.
They’ve also got a stronger team than they have had in some time, with little thanks to Mike Ashley, and on the pitch, the players look aligned and together as they look to get Newcastle out of the mess that they’re currently in.
Reports over the last week have served to disrupt that, with the Daily Mail reporting that Newcastle defender Jamaal Lascelles clashed with teammate Matt Ritchie in training. Despite the notion that is was likely little more than an everyday training ground confrontation, the reports have naturally led to a little bit of concern, but the reality should be very different.
Indeed, fans and pundits alike should be applauding the incident – as it proved that Newcastle have got what every top team needs; desire and passion.
It might not win him the title, but it will give Benitez the strength that is needed to take the club where they need to be, at least in the short-term.
Things haven’t gone right for Newcastle on the field this year, and so it would have been easy for players to throw the towel in and stop caring about the team and the results. However, it’s clear that quite the opposite has happened, with players willing to challenge those around them. Regardless of their motivations, that indicates a desire to improve, and that could be the difference between settling for a draw or grabbing a last-gasp winner on a matchday. That kind of challenging and motivation is what raises levels when playing, and it’s clear that the players are eager to do that.
That’s particularly important when you consider the lack of transfer activity at the club. Without new faces that bring new ideas and new personalities, it’s up to the current crop of players to raise the quality of their game and the team as a collective. Again, at that point it would be easy for the players to simply rest upon their laurels – but that isn’t happening. This has previously had a positive impact at St James’ Park, when Lascelles clashed with Mo Diame. Diame really impressed on the field in the weeks thereafter, and so whilst fighting with your teammates isn’t a good thing to do – it clearly functions.
Is this a sign of player power? Maybe, but for a club like Newcastle, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. All it does is instil a sense of pride in the senior members of the squad, and with a manager ass renowned as Benitez at the helm, there should be no concerns of any potential uprisings – which is typically the main negative connotation associated with such strong personalities in the dressing room.
In addition to the impact that it will have on the Newcastle squad, it should also serve as a positive event for Rafael Benitez. For the first time in recent memory, it appears as though Newcastle finally have a squad, rather than just a group of mercenaries. They clearly care about the club and achieving success, and that’s the sort of thing that a squad can be built around. Whilst Benitez clearly has his own issues with the club more broadly, at least he’ll know that he can count on the squad that is at his disposal, and there’s no chance of them throwing in the towel at the earliest possible opportunity.
Newcastle’s goals for this season and beyond are clear. With or without Mike Ashley, the club need to be back where they belong among England’s best teams. Hopefully, from the perspective of the Magpies, fresh investment will come to the club and they’ll be able to compete financially with many of their rivals in the English top flight, but for now, Rafael Benitez has to work with what he’s got. He might not have the biggest or best squad in the league, but on the field – and off the field following these reports – it’s clear that he has personality, dedication and leadership amongst many of his players. It might not win him the title, but it will give Benitez the strength that is needed to take the club where they need to be, at least in the short-term.
Newcastle fans – thoughts?
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