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.
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:
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.”
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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