“If you ain’t first, you’re last.” — Ricky Bobby
An amazing end to the 2016/7 season at St. James’ Park saw Newcastle United crowned The EFL Champions in the very last minute of the season as a Jack Grealish goal for Aston Villa against Brighton meant The Championship title headed The Magpies way.
To a man – Mike Ashley included, the owner himself playing a pivotal part in confirming the title giving the thumbs up that Newcastle had done it after watching on his monitor as everyone around him desperately checked their phones – 52,000 people of a black and white persuasion erupted with joy.
This is not usually what happens to long-suffering Geordies. Usually the last-minute goal confirms relegation or another team winning the title or clinching promotion or a European place instead of Newcastle yet this sea-change from the all-too familiar feeling of dread and defeat to the winning feeling of victory and success is a vital change.
Its a magical feeling Rafa Benitez – the most decorated manager in world club football – knows all too well and has brought to St. James’ Park to share with the Newcastle supporters, who already idolise him, and bring back the good times to both club and city.
That it was a comeback win to seal the title after many had written Newcastle off before, during and even at the very end of the season was all the sweeter.
This is why finishing top not second of The Championship really matters:
- We Are The Champions : Footballers Want To Win Trophies
While many entered St. James’ Park on Sunday morning quietly confident Newcastle would finish first, the majority of Geordie fans were just happy that it was job done already & promotion achieved after a long, hard season of Championship football.
Rafa Benitez concurred publicly that going up meant Mission Accomplished yet the Spaniard always had a glint in his eyes whenever he said the goal of promotion was achieved yet his team would work hard for the final games & see what happened…
That he added the EFL Championship to his amazing haul of trophies including The Champions League, UEFA Cup & Super Cup, Europa League, FIFA Club World Cup, La Liga in Spain & domestic Cups in England, Italy and Spain should have come as no surprise.
Newcastle haven’t won a major trophy since The Fairs Cup in 1969 yet don’t bet against Rafa Benitez ending that run very soon whatever you do.
2. Mike Ashley Was Bang In The Middle of The Magpies’ Celebrations
For the first time this season, Newcastle owner Mike Ashley was at St. James’ Park to watch his team play at home – and he thoroughly enjoyed it.
Sitting next to his Managing Director Lee Charnley, the pair watched unfolding events with the same emotions as the rest of St. James’ Park crowd and joined in the jubilation.
Ahead of his meeting with the billionaire Magpies supremo this week, Rafa Benitez said a close relationship between the owner and the club’s fans is crucial:
“It is important from him, for us, to feel the love of the fans and the passion in the stadium.”
With Mike Ashley feeling good and part of things again at the club and back in sync with a fanbase he has had a strained relationship with at times, it bodes very well for the club especially with the top brass pictured celebrating together after the match.
With Rafa Benitez, billionaire Mike Ashley finally has a manager he can back to the hilt knowing success is guaranteed and that belief is priceless.
3. NUFConspiracy? Newcastle With Rafa Benitez Can Beat The Refs
Its an accepted view on Tyneside that the football authorities and powers-that-be do not like Newcastle United and actively seek to hold the club back both on and off the pitch.
Its a view shared by TalkSport radio presenter Adrian Durham this season although some of his other disparaging comments are best forgotten:
This can be seen in recent events such as the cancelled Matt Ritchie penalty (!) against Burton Albion, one of only 5 given to NUFC compared to the 11 pens given to Brighton including the inevitable one on the final day at Villa, the nonsensical double sending off of JonJo Shelvey and Paul Dummett at Notts Forest and the timing of the HMRC raid at St. James’ Park just hours after Newcastle celebrated promotion versus Preston.
Regardless, the football Fates conspired to give Newcastle their just deserts for a long, hard-fought season in which they scored the most goals, conceded the least, won the most games and beat Brighton comfortably home and away – Champions indeed.
4. Everyone Loves A Winner & Wants To Be Part Of It
As congratulations rolled in from across the football world from Geordie legend Alan Shearer to NUFC-mad celebrities Ant ‘n’ Dec, former player Yohan Cabaye to current loanee Siem De Jong, some of the most notable well-wishers may well play a big part in Newcastle’s future…
Former NUFC-target Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang tweeted ‘Congrats’ to Ayoze Perez in what many Newcastle fans are seeing as a ‘Come and Get Me Plea’ to Rafa Benitez.
Whatever the truth of the link, Europe’s top goalscorer has put himself back on Newcastle United’s radar and already the club are being linked with big names like Yaya Toure.
With Rafa Benitez at the helm and Newcastle recapturing that winning feeling, anything seems possible again on Tyneside.
5. Feel Good Factor All Summer – The Rafalution Has Only Just Started
Unlike a demoralised Brighton Hove Albion, who let a seven-point lead with three games to go slip from their grasp, everyone connected with Newcastle United can enjoy a summer of celebration before the new Premier League season kicks off on August 12th and the certainty that the best is yet to come under Rafa Benitez.
This is great news for the NUFC Fans’ FoodBank which is another success story of the season having raised 14.2 tonnes of food and £7390 in cash donations over 8 match-day collections since they began in February and the NUFC Fans’ film which now has a very happy and very Hollywood ending – the start of The Rafalution proper.
Don’t Stop Believin’