After a terrible 2015-16 season that ended in relegation, Newcastle appear to be turning things around. They’re currently top of the Championship table, level on points with Brighton & Hove Albion but ahead on goal difference. They’re also six points ahead of Huddersfield in third, giving them a nice cushion to secure automatic promotion back to the Premier League next season, at the very least.
And while he couldn’t do enough to save them from the drop last season, their dominant performance this campaign has been credited to Rafa Benitez. Newcastle was seen as something of a demotion for Benitez, who is still beloved among Liverpool fans for orchestrating the historic comeback in the 2005 Champions League Final and for winning the FA Cup the following season, among other things. After leaving Liverpool to take the reigns at Inter, then (briefly) Chelsea, then Napoli, and finally a disastrous spell at Real Madrid, Tyneside seemed like an ignominious end to a distinguished managerial career— especially once Newcastle’s relegation was confirmed.
But Rafa doesn’t plan on going out quietly, and despite today’s poor performance against Fulham the Spaniard is bent on pulling the Magpies back into the top flight. His overall plan for success? Recapturing some of the magic from his Liverpool days.
“I was there at Liverpool six years and we won the Champions League in the first year and we played in the final of the League Cup at this time, so the adoration was growing and growing. After, we were in another final, so we had won four titles and three finals at Liverpool and semi-finals or whatever, so that was massive. But it’s very similar, so hopefully we can do well and we will have the same number of years and trophies.”
Rafa also said he’s experiencing a similar problem at Newcastle as he did at Liverpool— a language barrier.
“I don’t understand the Scousers when they talk fast, but I have an advantage, which is that I have been there for years. But also my daughter, the little one, she talks very fast with a Scouse accent and my friends are Scousers. I couldn’t understand my daughter at the beginning when she would say, ‘Give me my butty’. ‘What? Oh sandwich, fine’. I didn’t know. But when she talks quickly, after she says, ‘Tell Daddy that I want to say this...’.”