On March 11th 2016, Newcastle United appointed Rafa Benitez as manager, a day that gave every Toon fan hope.
The Magpies looked doomed, battling relegation under Steve McClaren and seemingly destined for the second tier of English football.
After a 3-1 defeat to Bournemouth, McClaren was finally relieved of his duties.
Shockingly, it was a former Champions League winner and Liverpool legend who replaced him. Benitez arrived, tasked with keeping Newcastle in the Premier League.
Unfortunately, it was too late. The Magpies went down, but Rafa remained. With a united Toon Army behind him, Benitez decided to stay with Newcastle in the Championship. He guided us straight back to the Premier League, winning the title on the last day.
In the Premier League, Newcastle weren’t a pretty watch. Benitez made them hard to beat, avoiding relegation with ease during his two full seasons in charge in the top flight.
Sadly, that was as far as he was allowed to take us. Benitez had fans dreaming, but Mike Ashley didn’t share his vision. His contract expired this summer, and off he went to China for a new challenge.
It was a moment that proved to be the final straw for some fans. Benitez was a beacon of hope, but that hope quickly disappeared and apathy returned.
Throughout his reign as manager, I would often catch myself saying to myself ‘Rafa Benitez is manager of my club’. It was somewhat surreal. It could have been the start of something special, but the owner didn’t allow it.
Every day until Christmas, Geordie Boot Boys will bring you another incredible Newcastle moment as we countdown the 25 most iconic Toon moments of the decade.