Loyalty and football: two words which do not go hand in hand like they used to. Gone are the days of the one-man club; gone are the days of the word ‘legend’ being justified due to an individual’s service.
Why? Money? A level of greed that’s suffocating the game through TV sponsorship, the world in itself getting too greedy; a place dictated by social media followers, a sense of boosting your ego to put yourself on a pedestal.
It’s therefore somewhat surprising that Rafa Benitez, a man who cares so much about his own CV and about his own image, is managing in the second tier of English football. The Spaniard’s experience from the Bernabéu to the San Siro – although far too short – has given Rafa the legitimacy to stake a claim on any top job.
Some may question his decision to therefore manage in the second tier; a club who have been more of a yo-yo team than their great rivals, Sunderland. But, to John Barnes, it makes a perfect sense. Barnes, speaking on behalf of Bonus Code Bets to CLICKON, emphasised the stature of the North East club, and how they compare to the top sides in the Premier League:
“Newcastle are a big club. Forget about where they are: from the fans and the stadium, and then looking at the top six clubs in the Premier League; Newcastle are up there.
Newcastle are bigger than Tottenham, because of this fan base and potential they have.
From Rafa’s perspective, if you want to be in England, and manage Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea or Manchester City, there is no other bigger club than these other than Newcastle”.
It’s refreshing to see such honesty from a former player, whilst also speaking highly of a club who poorly treated the former Magpie following the sacking of Kenny Dalglish. Barnes continued to emphasise the difference in managing between a top tier side in England to other European clubs for Rafa Benitez:
“He [Benitez] could manage a top club in Spain or France, somewhere like PSG. But, if he wants to be in England and manage a bigger club than the aforementioned five, then there’s isn’t one as big as Newcastle.
Newcastle are thinking long-term with Rafa, they’ve gone down and I expect them to come straight back up, and suddenly a top coach is in charge of one of the top six clubs in the Premier League.”
With Newcastle going strong in the Championship, the fans have reason to be excited of a realistic promotion back to the Premier League. Still, the different nature in the two leagues, as was discovered last year, is more of a sobering reality once playing in the top flight. For all the Magpies history and trophy cabinet, this very characteristic could quite well play against them once again next season, as expectation does not meet result.
Barnes was not at Newcastle long enough to become one of their all-time best Premier League players. But who does make the list?