Struggles continue at Newcastle under Benitez

St James Park Four

Rafa Benitez failed to inspire Newcastle in Tyne-Wear derby before crucial back-to-back away games.

Newcastle United's Premier League collapse in 1996 will forever be associated with Kevin Keegan's emotional breakdown following a 1-0 victory at Leeds United.Their current troubles are of a different kind however.

Battling relegation is not a novelty for Newcastle fans. Bar a brief renaissance under Sir Bobby Robson, they have been a club in decline.

A 1-1 draw with arch rivals Sunderland on Sunday ensured they remain in the bottom three. The last four Sunderland managers - Paolo Di Canio, Gus Poyet, Dick Advocaat and most recently Sam Allardyce achieved their first victories for their club in the Tyne-Wear derby. Mike Ashley would have had this in mind when he disposed of Steve McClaren and brought in Rafa Benitez.

Ashley has made some poor decisions down the years. Strange managerial appointments have accompanied utterly bizarre trends in buying as many French players as possible.

Newcastle's raid on the French League in 2013 was symptomatic of their player recruitment. Three players signed from Ligue 1, followed by a 16th-place finish. What the fans would give for that finish come May, and doesn't that just epitomise how far they have fallen as a club.

With away games at Norwich City and Southampton coming up, can Benitez rejuvenate The Toon and bring back the good times? The jury is out.

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