After years of apologising to my children for their being born into a Newcastle United supporting household, finally they have one of those moments. The arrival of Benitez is that Kevin Keegan/Alan Shearer/Sir Bobby moment. What can we expect? 


Before getting carried away, we should point out that there is an escape clause in the contract. Rafa could walk if he fails to keep Newcastle up, which we will come to in a moment. 

The first hurdle is Leicester City, against the man who followed him to Valencia. The home side provides an example of what a club can do with an overseas manager who has a good knowledge of the English game. Benitez will surely use Leicester as inspiration for what he can achieve on Tyneside. 

Talking of Tyneside, his welcome from home supporters will be in the cauldron of a local derby against a manager with who he has some history. Their previous encounter at St James’ Park resulted in a 3-0 win for Rafa with goals from an Englishman and 2 Dutchmen. 

Benitez will be aiming for his 7th home win out of 7 against Allardyce, during which a Sam side has only scored once, a goal difference of 12 in Rafa’s favour. 

The new boss will be assured of a great atmosphere, the sort that only Steve Taylor would have witnessed before when Keegan returned. Of course he will be reunited with Jonjo Shelvey who he signed as a 16 year old for Liverpool. Surely this will be a huge motivation for the players and encourage a longer term desire to remain with the club. 

Suddenly, other games ahead look distinctly winnable, fellow relegation contenders Norwich away and a former Newcastle manager already less popular than Benitez, Pardew, in free fall before coming back to St James’ with his Palace side. Liverpool away provides a link with his past.

 

He inherits a squad that should be able to make the most of the remaining fixtures, to gain instant legendary status for sending the Mackems down. We expect to be able to look forward to retaining his services next year. 

At this point it is worth diverting to consider Mike Ashley. Having employed Graham Carr to bring in bargains, the Newcastle United business had become a model for cost control. With an asset that has had growing revenues, predominantly through TV income, we see a potential change from bargain basement to quality. Has he learned his lessons? 

Certainly, the arrivals over the last 2 windows suggest a positive change, Shelvey, Wijnaldum, Townsend together with genuine potential in the form of Mbemba and Mitrovic. With his attention to detail, Rafa will surely have plans for them all. 

When, after Bournemouth, we looked to be all but down, now we can realistically look at moving on. Anywhere above 17th will pay for his bonus. Further improvements will pay for McClaren’s management team to sun themselves for a while. We can then start looking to the summer and beyond. 

Rafa’s meticulous planning has been demonstrated in the fact that his new management team are already in place. Continuity is provided in Ian Cathro who stays on. It says much that within an hour of being announced, Benitez had his first training session in place. 

The depth of his database means that Benitez has his private dossier in every single member of his new squad. He already has his plans to deal with the strengths and weaknesses of every single Premier League team. That first training session will prove constructive. 

Needless to say, he will already have some idea of where he needs to strengthen in the summer, which brings us to a major concession that he has achieved. He will have a critical input into who the club signs and who the club sells. 

This too has knock on effects for the existing hierarchy. Benitez remains an ambitious man. He does not like to lose and it is not often that he does. He will need a transfer kitty and will want to spend it. 

McClaren may have already encouraged a mindset shift, evidenced by the signing of 2 English players in the shape of Shelvey and Townsend. Whilst having dealt with several nationalities in his previous roles, suddenly we can expect to see more players from across the continent and beyond. 

Known for our accounting analysis on this site, we have tried to estimate how much can be spent. Yes, we were called on the suggestion that a new manager after Carver could be given up to £100m. Has we signed Berahino, that would have happened. Are the reserves dry? 

More will be obvious after last season’s accounts are published. Our preliminary work suggests that between the accounts, Financial Fair Play and the new TV deal, a figure of £140m could be achievable with the caveat that there would need to be a short term cash flow injection into the club. This is feasible, either from commercial borrowing or from Ashley’s pocket money. 

In return, Ashley can expect increased commercial revenues from sponsorship, aligned with a new quality image with the appointment of one of the game’s best. His return comes from a capital growth in the club, now being more marketable. If this season goes to plan, then Newcastle United could achieve a market value in excess on £1bn.

 

The timing is perfect. From what was the big 4, Liverpool have dropped out since Benitez left. Manchester United have faltered since Ferguson. Leicester and Spurs have shown that a top 4 position is realistic. Champions League potential increases the club’s value still further. 

We don’t know if this all could have happened without the passion of opposition to the direction that the club had taken. Supporters have had their say, some by boycotting, some by being outspoken with varying degrees of constructive criticism. 

If we stay up, we can look forward to passionate supporters following a passionate manager and a team worthy of that passion. Benitez can be the uniting influence that we saw under Sir Bobby and KK. We can hope that Ashley can finally see that compromise yields dividends. We have a common interest despite different motives. 

Finally, this site has campaigned in its own way, more so since January, to appoint a manager of the calibre of Benitez or Mourinho. The latter was mentored by Sir Bobby and could have been realistic. He could have made himself bigger than the club. 

In Rafa, we have a man who can potentially make the club as big as it deserves to be. Newcastle United is a club which dominated prior to WW1, with successes between the wars and FA Cup dominance in the post WW2 years. 

On 9th January we invited Ashley to dream (here). The appointment of Benitez allows us the opportunity to dream. Now let’s get on with staying up and making a bright future for Newcastle United.