Rafa Benitez is Newcastle’s most beloved manager since Kevin Keegan.
And like King Kev, Benitez’s time at the club could end on a sour note due to the owner.
The Spaniard’s contract is set to expire at the end of the season, with negotiations underway about extending his stay at St James’ Park.
Benitez wants reassurances from Mike Ashley that money will be invested into the squad and that it will be allowed to reach the potential it clearly has.
He is a manager that has made the Toon Army dream, just like Keegan did.
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But Keegan’s second stint as Newcastle manager was a disaster. While the first time he nearly delivered the Premier League title with an exciting brand of football, his second tenure was riddled with off-field issues that ultimately led to his resignation.
Keegan couldn’t trust the hierarchy at Newcastle. Despite being a club legend, he was given the run around.
Benitez must be wary of what happened to Keegan, and ensure that he isn’t undermined as well. He needs assurances about transfers, otherwise there is no point signing a contract.
If he isn’t going to be given the tools to do the job to the best of his ability, why should he do the job at all?
Benitez must not be treated in the same way as Keegan
In his autobiography, Keegan has opened up about the shambles that was his second spell at Newcastle.
“What I didn’t realise, with the transfer deadline approaching, was that Newcastle were trying to get other players out behind my back,” Keegan writes.
“Joey Barton…rang Terry [McDermott] at one point to ask why the club were trying to shunt him out to Portsmouth on loan. Michael Owen was offered to Liverpool and, soon afterwards, we were hearing reports the entire squad had been put up for sale.
“The players must have wondered what the hell was going on and the manager, I’m embarrassed to say, didn’t know anything about it.
“I was being completely undermined.”
He would reach boiling point.
Having lost 3-0 away to Arsenal, he said: “I was sick of them; sick of the way they were riding roughshod over me, sick of being treated like dirt.”
The 68-year-old later discussed how Ashley had promised to ring Keegan, but after a day of not hearing from the owner, Keegan sent a text message to him saying: “The most honest man in football treated like garbage.”
Since then, Newcastle have been relegated twice, but the owner still remains the same.
With Benitez, we have a chance to put things right. But Ashley must win his trust and give him the correct tools to do the job his way.
Kevin Keegan’s autobiography ‘My Life In Football’ is now available in paperback for £8.99.