In what is viewed as a major coup for the club, Newcastle are set to announce that Rafa Benitez will remain in charge as manager despite the clubs relegation to the Championship. The 56 year old former Liverpool, Napoli and Real Madrid boss was widely expected to activate a break clause in his contract but has decided to stay in the role after being given reassurances by Newcastle’s owner Mike Ashley that he will be given greater control over the clubs transfer policy. With money committed to spend and assurances that any other money generated from player sales will be reinvested in the squad, Rafa is happy enough to stay at St James Park. It’s a major boost for the club as they get set for their second spell in the Championship in eight years. Last time Newcastle bounced straight back up under Chris Hughton but failed to learn from their mistakes and find themselves sucked back down. Rafa will likely make wholesale changes to not only the first team squad but also to the infrastructure that supports it in an attempt to prevent a repeat in the future. One such change is the departure of chief scout Graham Carr who the club has indicated has decided to retire but many believe has taken the blame for the clubs failure to survive in the Premier League.
The task of rebuilding Newcastle will not be an easy one given the amount of work needed to be done. First up is establishing a squad capable of competing in a highly competitive Championship. Rafa will be hoping to hold on to the main nucleus of his squad but is aware that several key players are set to leave. French midfielder Moussa Sissoko will be the first to go with clubs across Europe keen on the player. He will be likely followed by Dutch internationals Daryl Janmaat and Georginio Wijnaldum whilst the futures of Tim Krul, Cheick Tiote and Jonjo Shelvey remain uncertain. Andros Townsend, who only arrived in January from Tottenham and impressed the fans with his effort and goals, will also depart with a move to Portugal on the cards. The drop will give Benitez the chance to remove the under performers from the club including Siem de Jong, Yoan Gouffran and Steven Taylor whose contract is set to expire ending his 13 year association with the club. Key to Benitez bounce back plans is convincing the backbone of Mbemba, Colback and Mitrovic to give him one season in the lower league something that all three are likely to do. Added to this, Benitez will look to get more out of Ayoze Perez, vurnon Anita and youngsters like Rolando Aarons as he rebuilds around them. Attracting new players will be important but Rafa could find it difficult to get the players he wants to play due to the club playing in the Championship.
Escaping the Championship will not be easy given the competitiveness of that league. This season Middlesborough and Burnley have already secured promotion with hull and Sheffield Wednesday fighting it out in the play off final for the third spot. But it could quite have easily been several other teams with derby, Brighton, Ipswich, Cardiff and Brentford all in the hunt whilst Leeds, Wolves and QPR continue to improve season over season. Next season newcastle will also be joined by a resilient Norwich side and a rejuvenated Aston Villa who under new ownership will spend heavily in the summer. Whilst Benitez is set to sign a revamped three year deal, mentally he will be looking at giving this one year. If Newcastle are unable to gain promotion at the first attempt or Ashley doesn’t live up to his promises, then Benitez will be off.