Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle United are just one win away from setting a new all-time club record of ten consecutive wins in all competitions after beating Leeds United 2-0 at Elland Road last weekend.
To go one game and one step further will be a significant milestone for a club that for too long have been nearly men, beaten finalists, title runners-up and then sank into the despair of not even trying to win the big prizes.
Under Rafa Benitez, that attitude and mentality has changed: the most decorated Cup-winning manager of modern times is not at St. James’ Park to oversee a collection of also-rans – the Spaniard is a natural born winner intent on setting new standards & realising Newcastle’s giant modern potential to win trophies.
True, he is standing on the shoulders of giants – Kevin Keegan saved the club from relegation to the 3rd division in 1992 and transformed The Magpies into title contenders whilst business supremo Sir John Hall rebuilt the stadium, first to 36.500 then to its modern capacity of 52,000.
Then Sir Bobby, that most revered of Geordie gentlemen all over the world put the good name of Newcastle United firmly on The Champions League map with successive qualifications in the early 2000s alongside Premier League titles challenges ensuring the Geordie club remained contenders in the football consciousness.
After narrowly failing to avoid an agonizing relegation at the end of last season, Rafael Benitez is now at the helm to restore Newcastle to full functionality starting.
Kevin Keegan, whose record was nine games won in a row in the 1992-3 Division Two-winning season, is adored by fans yet nine is an almost number, 9/10, 90%, and of course Keegan’s Entertainers were thrilling in the 90s without actually winning any major trophy despite coming agonizingly close along with his greatest no.9 Alan Shearer.
The Geordie striker joined his hometown club to win trophies like he had at Blackburn yet despite becoming Newcastle’s top goalscorer of all time eclipsing the great Jackie Milburn, he would not add to the Premier League trophy he won at Ewood Park under Kenny Dalglish.
Its fitting that the first record Benitez will break at the club against Blackburn Rovers at St. James’ Park on Saturday is 10 consecutive winning matches, for the number 10 is the number of perfection, attainment, achievement, wholeness – the completion of a cycle, a project and its ultimate success, victory.
The early comparisons with his fantastic predecessors of the recent past, Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson, who excelled in the 1990s and early 2000s respectively, are inevitable yet they are also men whose records Rafa has to beat and better by winning trophies at the top level if he is to be a total success.
After two excellent modern-era managers, Benitez has to go one step further than they did – as well as Kenny Dalgish and Ruud Gullit who were beaten FA Cup Finalists in 1998 and 1999 – and deliver the silverware the Geordie fans crave and deserve.
Newcastle fans who pack St. James’ Park to the tune of 50,000+ fans every game mean the club – even in the second tier Championship of English football – are firmly established in the top tier of fans worldwide and make the Geordie giants one of the best supported clubs in Europe.
By establishing a new winning record, Benitez will be stretching the idea of what is possible at Newcastle.
On course for The Championship title five points clear of 2nd-place, Newcastle head to Hull City in The EFL Cup Quarter-Final on Tuesday night with real ambition to make a mark in that Cup competition as well.
Its an exciting time indeed to be a fan of the black and white sleeping giant slowly awakening.