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Newcastle – Christian Atsu Is Geordie Messiah Benitez’s 12th Disciple In Rafalution Part 1




Moussa Sissoko signed for Spurs for £30M as Chelsea winger Christian Atsu became the 12th disciple to follow new Geordie Messiah, Rafa Benitez, to St. James’ Park after signing on a year-long loan deal with view to a permanent move after a transfer window that sees Newcastle make a £31M profit and truly ‘Rafalution-ise’ their squad.

A man synonymous with success, Benitez’s first transfer window as manager of Newcastle United saw the extensive turnover of a squad in need of a complete overhaul and the arrival of a dozen new players including many exciting buys to whet the football appetite of the 50,000-strong Geordie faithful.

As the transfer window drew to a close on Deadline Day, Benitez attended a UEFA Elite Coaches Forum in Nyon with many of the world’s best managers & ex-managers including Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson.


Benitez’s squad change has truly been a ‘Rafalution’ with 18 players shipped off Newcastle’s books for either big fees like Sissoko, on year-long loan deals in the case of Dutchmen Tim Krul and Siem De Jong, the moving on of veterans Steven Taylor & Fabricio Coloccini and the release of dead wood like Sylvain Marveaux.

A further seven players in the development squad have gone out on loan notably Sammy Ameobi who joins Bolton Wanderers on a season-long loan and Adam Armstrong who teams up with Barnsley for the season.

The arrival of a group of hardened professionals, many with experience of winning The Championship and promotion not just playing in the English second tier as well as a wealth of Premier League and international experience has set up a deadly serious tilt at promotion back to the Premier League.

Make no mistake, the arrival of relatively big money buys like Matt Ritchie & Dwight Gayle for over £10M+ fees from Bournemouth & Crystal Palace respectively plus a clutch of £5M buys Grant Hanley, Ciaran Clark, Mo Diame – the man who scored the goal in last season’s Championship Final for Hull – DeAnde Yedlin and co. from the United States means Newcastle now have the squad to justify their pre-season ‘Favourites’ tag from the bookies.

The first two games and defeats of the season – a 1-0 loss at Fulham and 2-1 home reverse against Huddersfield – has served as a wake-up call to Rafa Benitez about the realities of life in The EFL Championship, a division that he had no previous management experience in.

Football is massive business – total Premier League transfer dealings went over the £1 Billion mark for the first time ever this summer due to the new TV deal – and with The Magpies red-hot favourites for the 2nd division title, it emerged bookies had even amassed a hefty liability on the club going the whole season unbeaten or winning every match until 3 penalties were not given to Newcastle at Craven Cottage in very controversial circumstances:


Not even Benitez would claim Newcastle played well yet an early sending off – Fulham’s Denis Odoi should have been dismissed 10 minutes in for a professional foul on Ayoze Perez – or early penalty given (the first stonewall incident was at 0-0 after 35 minutes with both referee and linesman with a perfect view of the handball) would have settled The Magpies down and their first win on the road would have been recorded.

Instead, early momentum was denied Newcastle resulting in a hangover against Huddersfield & the wrath of many at the club was United.

A second wave of signings was undertaken with renewed determination with Rafa’s reputation, Mike Ashley’s investment in the club and even the future of Newcastle United as a major footballing entity at stake.

Look at the fall from grace of Leeds United from Champions League Semi-Finalists as recently as 2001 to League One obscurity and Championship mediocrity since to realise what is at stake in the do-or-die restyled EFL (English Football League) Championship. Considering it took local rivals Middlesborough fully seven years to escape the second tier, not being promoted at the first attempt is not an option.

Newcastle are the 21st Premier League club in the wrong division for varying reasons from mismanagement to terrible refereeing bias that has harmed the club on the pitch and financially off it with penalty and red card statistics ringing alarmingly at Newcastle being blacklisted by officials and swindled out of the £100M TV revenue in The Great Toon Robbery (Telegraph) that should have been theirs last season but for refereeing ‘errors. (The Sun)


Yet the tide is turning since high-level investigations began – the dismissal of Brighton’s Sam Baldock was the first red card given to an opposition player playing against The Magpies since Norwich away in January, 2014 (Loic Remy dismissed alongside Canary Bradley Johnson) & the first time the club enjoyed a man advantage in any competitive match since Stoke City 5-1 win in December, 2013 when two Potters were dismissed, over 100 games ago.

JonJo Shelvey’s first goal for the club was huge and his continued presence at the club represents the fruition of investment in the 2016 transfer windows, when, after several barren windows for a club of Newcastle’s size, £100M was splashed out on internationals & Champions League players like Aleksandar Mitrovic & Chancel Mbemba.

Rafa has sold some of last season’s purchases at big profit – Holland international Gini Wijnaldum arrived for £14.5M and left for Liverpool for £25M – while money spent was recouped for both Daryl Janmaat – £7.5M to Watford – & Andros Townsend – £13M to Crystal Palace – to put Benitez’s book-balancing at a profit of £31M.

That represents excellent business considering Newcastle lost out on the £100M guaranteed windfall from the new Premier League TV rights deal next season although the club will benefit from parachute payments from relegation into The Championship to the tune of around £40M next season and £90M over three years should they not bounce back at the first attempt like they did in 2009-10.

Magpies owner Mike Ashley stressed when Rafa Benitez took over as Manager in March that he and Newcastle are committed through thick and thin –

“I”ve got no choice, I’m wedded to Newcastle like Sports Direct, I’ve got them and they’ve got me, that’s just the way it is.”

and ominously for the club’s Championship rivals, he is prepared to back Rafa Benitez to the hilt to save his top-flight marriage with the beautiful game.

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Juventus Fans Arrested After Clash with Police



Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final clash between Juventus and Ajax has already been marred by violence and controversy, before the teams even took to the pitch.

According to Ansa, citing a report from De Telegraaf, dozens of fans were reportedly arrested in Amsterdam in the hours leading up to the game.

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini (h/t Football Italia) took to Facebook live video to state that “around 120” fans had been arrested.

Per the report from De Telegraaf, fans near the Johan Cruyff Arena were “in possession of knives, clubs, pepper spray and flares.” Also, dozens of Ajax supporters were reported to have clashed with riot police in separate incidents outside the stadium and were eventually dispersed with the use of tear gas and water cannons.

The Mirror posted the following images on their Twitter page:

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Man City forward Raheem Sterling Looking to Combat Racism on the Pitch



Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, who spoke out last month after being subjected to taunts during England’s game in Montenegro, is looking to take his fight against racism to the pitch, saying he would rather stay on the field than let racism force him to walk off of the pitch during a match.

Sterling’s manager Pep Guardiola, stated that he would support players walking off in protest if it happened again, in a strong statement that racism is simply not acceptable.

“I think everyone are entitled to their own opinions. My mum has taught me to be comfortable in my own skin and I am,” Sterling said, according to the Manchester Evening News.

“I wouldn’t personally agree with [walking off], to win the game would hurt them even more they’re only trying to get you down. If you walk off they win, to score or win would be better.

“Everyone’s different. Everyone has their own opinion, how they deal with things emotionally and you have to support everyone.”

Sterling opened up about the racism he has faced in his life, discussing when he first expereinced racism when he moved from North London up to the north-west back in 2010.

“I don’t think trying to make a difference or making a difference, it’s about speaking what you experience. Some people might shy away from it, if more players speak up that might be better.

“It’s offensive but growing up my mum always told me I’m a wonderful black child and I know this. When I hear it, it’s nothing new. I’m happy with it. I’m confident, I’m black and I’m proud. Some people can’t take it but my mum has always told me to love who I am.

“The first time I experienced racism is when I went up north to Liverpool – in London in schools and on a day-to-day basis you’re surrounded by a diverse community. Only a few occasions growing up in the academy in Liverpool, and then mainly in the last couple of years of being a professional.”



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Birmingham City Fan Jailed for 14 Days for Punching Aston Villa Player



27-year old Paul Mitchel, a Birmingham City fan has been jailed for 14 days after he plead guilt to assaulting Aston Villa midfielder Jack Graelish during the derby on Sunday.

Mitchell rushed the pitch and took a swing at Graelish when the player’s back was turned at Birmingham City’s St. Andrew’s stadium during the Championship match on Sunday.

Mitchell admitted to invading the pitch and has been officially banned from attending any football match in the U.K. for up to 10 years, and was also ordered to pay £350 in total fines.

Graelish made a statement in which he described how he was “shocked and scared” by the attack.

“I cannot help but feel how lucky I was in this incident,” he said (h/t ESPN). “It could have been so much worse had the supporter had some sort of weapon.”

“He cannot explain what came over himself yesterday morning,” Mitchell’s lawyer, Vaughn Whistance, said on Monday.

“His initial foolish intention was to go onto the pitch to whip up the crowd. He is certainly remorseful today. He is a man with a partner, they have a 2-year-old together and they’re expecting their second child.”

“This weekend a line has been crossed in terms of fan behaviour,” said a spokesperson for the FA.

“On Sunday we saw two separate incidents, at Birmingham City and Arsenal, of individuals entering the field of play and assaulting players.

“Not only is it an offence to enter the pitch, which could result in a club ban and criminal charges for the individual, but it also puts the safety of the players at risk.

“This is entirely unacceptable and we strongly condemn both incidents.

“We will be working with the clubs, the leagues and the police to discuss what collectively needs to be done to protect players and officials on the pitch.

“In addition, we have written to both Birmingham City and Arsenal to seek their observations to examine the security measures they had in place.”

Birmingham City apologized to Grealish and Aston Villa and banned Mitchell for life.

“Birmingham City Football Club would like to apologise to Jack Grealish and Aston Villa Football Club for an incident in Sunday afternoon’s derby match,” a club statement said.

“We deplore the behaviour of the individual who committed this act and rest assured he will be banned from St. Andrew’s for life. The club will also support any further punishment this individual may face in the eyes of the law.

“The club will be working with the relevant authorities to investigate all the circumstances and we will be reviewing our stadium safety procedures.

“What happened has no place in football or society. Jack is a Birmingham lad and regardless of club allegiance should not have been subjected to this — there are no excuses.

“Again, we apologise to Jack and all at Aston Villa Football Club.”


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