What a day it has been at Newcastle United. On day six of the Steve McClaren saga, within a couple of hours, we learnt who would be in the dugout for Newcastle’s game on Monday night at league leaders Leicester. At 11:30 am the club released a statement confirming the sacking of Steve McClaren. By 1:45 pm we had photographic evidence of Rafa Benitez arriving at St James’ Park to finalise the deal that sees him become our new manager.

Rafa’s arrival was then confirmed in a statement released by the club shortly after. I’m delighted that somehow, a club like ours, run the way it is, has managed to get such a high-calibre name on board. 10 games left. Can he save us…?

Friday, March 11th – How it played out

  • 09:00 – At this stage the deal to bring Benitez to Newcastle was in advanced talks. Steve McClaren was still in the job, however, would not be reporting to the club’s Benton base as the squad had a scheduled day off.
  • 11:30 – The club releases a statement confirming the sacking of Steve McClaren https://twitter.com/NUFC/status/708253970951704577
  • 12:00 – Various media outlets reporting Rafa is on his way to St James’ Park for talks.
  • 13:00 – Benitez arrives cdrzik3wwaa7qkw
  • 14:30 – Rafa Benitez is announced as Newcastle’s new manager on a 3-year deal. The contract includes a clause for if the club is to be relegated enabling Rafa to depart. 2 million in bonus payments will be given to Benitez if he manages to keep the club up. 56e2e01cf000a_gettyimages514802588
  • 15:00 – Benitez makes the short 5 mile trip to NUFC’s Darsley Park training ground where he has called the squad together on a scheduled day off.
  • 15:30 – The majority of the squad who were able to make it, arrive at the training ground.
  • 15:45 – Rafa wastes no time as he puts the squad through their paces in an unscheduled training session. 117507
  • 17:30 – A frantic day draws to a close as the footballing world reacts to a big appointment.

Rafa’s Deal

Rafa Benitez has been appointed on a 3-year deal. However, the situation the club finds itself in means there’s added clauses in the agreed contract. If the club is to get relegated, there’s an opt-out option suitable to both parties which means Rafa would be unlikely to remain at the club for a new campaign in the championship. However, if Rafa keeps the club in the top flight then he will receive 2 million in bonus payments. The 3-year deal sees the Spaniard earning a reported 3 million a year (4x the amount that Steve McClaren’s contract supposedly commanded). Rafa has also made sure that his position is in a standard ‘manager’ role not ‘head coach.’ The Spaniard will also be bringing in his own trusted backroom team. 2177

McClaren’s Departure

Steve McClaren chose not to meet in person with his boss Lee Charnley this morning. So, Charnley confirmed the inevitable in a phone call to McClaren. The club placed on record their thanks to Steve McClaren for his work in a statement on the official website. After being relieved of his duties mid-morning, Steve McClaren issued a classy response to his departure through the League Managers Association:

“I am obviously very disappointed with the decision.I appreciate any frustrations relating to the team’s results and the club subsequently finding itself in a battle to avoid relegation. I remain confident, however, that we would have stayed in the Premier League with a view to building for next season.Whilst there has been a lot of intense speculation surrounding my position over recent days, my sole priority has been to maintain my professionalism and carry on with my work to best prepare the team.I would like to place on record what a privilege it has been to manage Newcastle United Football Club. It is a great a club – the embodiment of the city, with incredible supporters.I’d also like to thank Mike Ashley and the Board for giving me the opportunity to manage the club, and the staff and players for their loyalty and efforts.For every supporter of Newcastle United, I genuinely hope the club can produce the results I believe they are capable of, between now and the end of the season, to maintain their Premier League status.Newcastle United is a club that must build for the long term to deliver what the supporters deserve – success and silverware.”

The way the club have kept McClaren in the dark this week has been an absolute shambles. Steve should have been sacked at 6:00 pm last Saturday instead of knowing that his departure was imminent but having to turn up to training throughout the week. McClaren’s handled the whole situation very diplomatically and I have to credit him for that. A nice man and a very good coach, but ultimately not up to it at this level. It is, however, a relief to see the back of someone who would have almost certainly taken us down.

The backroom clear out

The departure of Steve McClaren has also seen a mass immediate clear out behind the scenes at Benton. Assistant coach Paul Simpson, fitness coach Alessandro Schoenmaker and personal fitness/motivational guru Steve Black have all left the club. Rafa will have his own coaching setup in place, favoured colleagues with whom he has worked with more than once in the past. Assistant coach Ian Cathro and goalkeeping coach Simon Smith are the only remaining staff from the McClaren regime. Fabio Pecchia, Antonio Gómez Pérez and Francisco de Míguel Moreno are the trusted 3 that come to Tyneside with Rafa. All 3 have a long-running history of with Benitez and were only working with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale at the World’s biggest club a couple of months ago.

  • Fabio Pecchia – Coming in as Rafa’s assistant coach and will carry out much of the training ground work on a day to day basis. Met Benitez at Napoli and then headed for Los Blancos alongside the Spaniard.
  • Antonio Gómez Pérez – Thought to be a great admirer of Rafa ever since he crossed paths with him during his playing days. Coming in as another coach alongside Fabio Pecchia.
  • Francisco de Míguel Moreno – Benitez’s preferred fitness man will come in as a direct replacement for Schoenmaker. Moreno is known for his hard-work and implication of intensity and ‘hustle’ off the ball.

rafa-benitez-antonio-gomez-fabio-pecchia_3429714Benitez with Fabio Pecchia (2nd from right) and Antonio Gómez (3rd from right) during their Real Madrid days.

Final Thought

Rafa has arrived on Tyneside and all Newcastle fans seem delighted to have him onboard. Personally, I feel Benitez will make us much tougher to beat away from home and his man management skills are far superior to those of McClaren. He has no honeymoon period as in 2 of our next 3 games we face Norwich and Sunderland. So it will be straight down to work on the training ground today and tomorrow before we face Leicester on Monday night.

Welcome, Rafa.

Read more from Caspar de Wesselow