In future years, 24 June 2019 will be a date etched in most Newcastle fans’ memories as the day it was announced Rafa Benitez was to leave the club when his contract expired.
It was a day most Toon supporters never wanted to come, and for all the disbelief that reverberated around the region, there was a growing anger among the Geordie fan-base.
It led to calls for protests and boycotts, as new groups against Mike Ashley and the club were quickly formed, and plans implemented to make a concerted effort to bring a change of ownership.
It even led to an announcement from the hugely popular Wor Flags group, stating they would no longer put on any further displays until Ashley was gone.
Such was the stature of Rafa among the fans, after years of threats, for the first time, the numbers of boycotting supporters is actually noticeable. Only the Spaniard could unify supporters enough to see them follow through on their promise to stay away.
Lee Charnley made statements about Rafa deciding to leave because of unrealistic demands and the money on offer from China, followed by retorts from Benitez countering the comments stating the club’s lack of ambition as the reason for his departure.
Fans may never know the real reason Rafa left
The fact is, we will never genuinely know exactly what went on behind the scenes, but there is only one version of events Newcastle fans will ever believe – and it would have been said with a Spanish accent!
Rafa won 62 of his 146 games in charge at Newcastle, which spread across Premier League, Championship and cup competitions. He lost just 54, which was a remarkable achievement, considering the shoestring budget he had to work with most of the time.
Steve Bruce has now come in, and Rafa is now a memory, but he will always be referred to as one of Newcastle’s legends, by generations of fans who watched him perform miracles to keep Newcastle in the Premier League.
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