NO DEAL TOON
Wantaway Ashley leaves boss Benitez in limbo as Newcastle face own Brexit style catastrophe
No deal in the transfer market. Which means no deal on a contract extension for Benitez.
No deal on a takeover, with owner Mike Ashley failing to conjure a £300million Sports Dir-exit, which leaves the Toon in limbo.
No takeover deal, means no significant transfer cash for Rafa, and no significant game-changing signings.
So it is increasingly likely that Newcastle United could crash out of the Premier League a couple of months after the country falls off a cliff edge out of the European Union.
There’s been months, years, of rancour about how Ashley and the club are getting it wrong. As Benitez said on Friday, “the risks” being taken are “no good for anyone.”
Stuck in the middle, managing the mess, Benitez gets criticised for being “realistic” and claiming it will be a “miracle” if United avoid relegation.
Or if he plays a back five trying to stay in a game against the elite. Too negative.
Newcastle’s 2-1 defeat to Chelsea did little to help their relegation fight, but Benitez played the bullish game, and sent the message out that United ARE strong enough, even if they don’t sign anyone in January.
No one can make that claim with any certainty, but as Rafa likes to say during long chats about the finer details of the game: “Football is a big lie.”
A year ago Benitez was agitated about the lack of backing, and failure to move swiftly to build up his squad.
These days he seems more philosophical. He knows the war is lost. Even he, armed with experience, trophies and realism, can’t change Ashley’s approach.
His last try was to line up Atlanta United star Miguel Almiron in November – and ask the club to strike early this month.
But, as it stands, Newcastle won’t pay £25m, or his £100k a week wages. So on Friday Benitez, who has banned himself from talking about transfers, insisted he knuckle down to organise, motivate and inspire his current players.
His one recurring message for fans and players is ‘Stick together and we will get the points to stay up. Nothing else matters. Don’t waste the energy.’
On the pitch the omens are not good. Since the start of December they’ve managed just five goals in nine league games.
It’s meant a run of five defeats, three draws and a narrow win at Huddersfield.
And just four wins in 24 games across all competitions this season.
The next month looks perilous too. A replay at Blackburn in the FA Cup is now a game that Benitez only just stopped short of saying they could do with losing.
Then it’s relegation rivals Cardiff, a must-win, Manchester City at home plus Tottenham and Wolves away. It could be panic stations by mid-February.
The anger has now turned to weariness on Tyneside.
But a new owner – with Peter Kenyon now Ashley’s “most credible” bidder – wouldn’t even have to have tens of millions.
Just spending wisely what the club has, and demonstrating they care and want to go places, will be a good start.
RAFA AT THE CLIFF EDGE Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez is resigned to making the best of a very bad job atSt James’