All Mike Ashley wants is for Newcastle to be a Premier League club. As long as they don’t finish in the bottom three, it’s job done.
That’s where the disconnect between the owner and Rafa Benitez began. The Spaniard saw the potential in the club. He wanted to make them into contenders and make fans dream again like they did under Kevin Keegan.
But to do that, you need a bit extra investment to climb the table. Ashley is only interested in being in the top flight. No matter where you finish, you’re still going to receive a massive amount of money. Just being in the Premier League is enough.
If Benitez was happy to just go through the motions and float in mid-table, he’d have signed a new deal and stayed at Newcastle. But he has loftier ambitions and has walked away. And good on him for doing that. He shouldn’t settle for mediocrity when his talents belong at the top.
But that doesn’t matter to our owner. As long as we stay in the Premier League next season, he’ll be happy with his decision.
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Ashley will probably feel vindicated if we finish the season in 17th place, narrowly avoiding relegation. He’ll still feel the benefit of owning a top flight football team. He’ll even have a bit extra cash as the new manager surely won’t earn as much as Rafa.
Whoever comes in to replace Benitez will have an almost impossible job. He’ll have to get the fans onside early, which will be difficult when you consider whose job he’s taking.
Then he’ll have to deal with a squad that overachieved at times under Benitez. Can he get the same out of the players?
And finally, he’ll have to work under a tight budget, limiting his ability to put his own stamp on the squad. But as long as they survive in the Premier League, that’ll be enough for Ashley.
The job advert should read “17th or above please”.