Newcastle United Fans Think Christmas Has Come Early


I stated at the start of the season that I felt that the vast experience of Rafa Benitez and the Spaniard’s pride should be enough to keep Newcastle United safe from relegation this season.

Yet I didn’t think they’d enjoy such a great start to the season but credit to the manager and his players, they’ve been well disciplined and picked up results.

The Toon secured a late 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday and that win saw them move up to sixth spot in the English Premier League.

In their opening nine league fixtures the Magpies have secured four wins, two draws and suffered just three defeats. Their impressive start has surprised most, especially when you consider they haven’t banged in the goals and aren’t the tightest at the back either.

But for many a Toon Army fan, October has been a fantastic month them and the team.

Not only has the newly promoted side overachieved in their Premier League campaign so far this term but they’ve also managed to tie down twenty-one year old loanee Mikel Merino to a permanent deal.

He joined on a season long loan from Borussia Dortmund in the summer and the Spaniard has impressed and become a fan favourite at St James’ Park. The youngster is a creative spark that always looks to attack with the ball and play a pass forward.

Merino was the match winner yesterday with his headed goal and his manager was delighted to get the deal done to keep him at the North East club on a long term basis: 

“I’m really pleased we have been able to bring Mikel to the club permanently. He has played very well since he joined us. He has settled in quickly, has a lot of quality on the ball and is keen to learn – that is a crucial part of his future development.

People are reminded of Xabi Alonso in Mikel’s style but I think his story could see him replicate Philippe Coutinho.

Liverpool brought in Coutinho from Inter Milan, with the player needing more game time. With that game time he’s become a world class performer, Magpie supporters will hope Merino can have the same impact under Rafa at Tyneside.

The best news for the support and their beloved manager this month could be Mike Ashley’s decision to put the club up for sale, with a few interested parties looking to make the lucrative purchase.

Ashley has always endured a fractured relationship with the club’s support. The passionate fanbase never felt that the Sports Direct owner had the club’s best interest at heart. He preferred to run the business like his retail arm rather than as a football club working hand in hand with the local community.

Any time things seemed to be heading in the right direction, Ashley or one of his associates would mishandle a situation or put a manager’s nose out of place. They just didn’t seem to have the ambition needed to make the club competitive and were happy to take the cash that comes with being a Premier League club.

That attitude saw them relegated twice and constant battles between the side’s hierarchy and it’s support have ensued.

In the summer the owner didn’t back his manager sufficiently enough and if it wasn’t for Rafa’s kinship with the Geordies in the stands then I think he’d have called it a day a St James’.

Now the fans, the club’s life source, can see the clouds clearing.

They have a manager in Rafa Benitez who they trust and a player in Merino that they have fallen in love with.

On the park they have a feel good factor too. Scotland international Matt Ritchie creates plenty of chances and captain Jamaal Lascelles is a passionate leader for the team at the back. While players like Christian Atsu and Jonjo Shelvey have the potential to turn games in Newcastle’s favour.

If Newcastle United can bring in new owners that match the fans and the gaffer’s ambition then you could see the Magpies seriously challenging for a top eight finish and maybe more.

You could easily improve the home ground and up the attendances to 60,000 or 65,000.  With Benitez at the helm and with an ambitious board then the support will back the entire club.

The potential new key-holders of Newcastle would also need to hand the Rafa Benitez more funds to strengthen the squad but he’s shown in the last two summers that he can bring in the right kind of players to match his goals.

Hopefully this isn’t another false dawn for the Magpies and that they can become a force once again in England’s top flight.

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