Master Tactician

The Premier League fight for survival is heating up with just a handful of games left to play. West Brom are all but confirmed for the drop, but there is a tight battle for the remaining spots. Some clubs look more likely than others to go down, but as we have seen in the past anything can happen in the final stretch and that is one of the reasons why we call it the beautiful game.

One team who looks to have just secured their survival though, is Newcastle. The Mags were in a very precarious position just two weeks ago, but three consecutive wins against Southampton, Huddersfield and Leicester has lifted them into the top half of the table and put a 10 point gap between themselves and the relegation zone with six games to play.

Newcastle is a club that belongs in the Premier League. They have some of the best fans in the country and the prestige of the club is up there with the best, but they have had difficult times in recent years, both on and off the field. That’s why Rafa Benitez’ work this season has been so brilliant.

Newcastle were promoted back to the Premier League las season and invested little in new talent in the summer. The club’s net spend was significantly less than Huddersfield and Brighton’s who both joined them in promotion, so you could argue that Rafa has secured safety in the Premier League with a Championship quality side.

Much of that is down to the Spaniard’s philosophy of teaching his players. After the win against the Foxes he described himself as a PE teacher with young pupils who are eager to learn.

“We don’t just coach, we try to teach players. They are learning what they have to do. It is not just about this season, it is for the rest of their lives,” he said.

That approach has helped his team grow in quality without bringing in too many new recruits.

But there is still a lot of work to do at Newcastle before they reach the success that they experienced in the 90’s. And holding onto Rafa will be a key part of that. His work this season with limited resources will have been noted by many clubs around Europe who will want to tempt him away from the North East. He has been loyal so far, but unless the board give him more funding and more ambitious plans for growing the club’s position, Rafa won’t stick around for long.

#mmlove