Could Benitez really replicate the influence of Kevin Keegan or Sir Bobby Robson at Newcastle United?
While it would be dramatically premature to proclaim the good times have returned to Newcastle United, there’s certainly a different atmosphere at St James’ Park these days, The Chronicle reports.
The toxic dissatisfaction of the reigns of Alan Pardew and John Carver has been replaced with cautious optimism and genuine hope since Rafael Benitez arrived in March, the boos and banners swapped for cheers and chants once more.
As it stands, The Magpies are at the top of the Championship and look certain to return to the Premier League after just one season away. And Benitez, after a tumultuous and personally testing time with Real Madrid in front of a blood-baying Bernabau, has taken the city to his heart.
Whether attending reserve fixtures or being snapped outside local landmarks, the apparently cold and calculated Benitez has been reborn as a man of the people.
And Peter Beardsley, Newcastle legend and current academy coach, has only played up the Spaniard’s influence, comparing him to legendary managers of years gone by.
“I have worked with some of the best managers but his manner and little things he does around the place - you just think ‘wow’”, Beardsley told The Chronicle.
“The big thing for me is for all of them, Sir Bobby, Kevin and the gaffer (Benitez) they absolutely love this game.
“This is their life so for Rafa it’s 24 hours a day, whether watching a game, watching the Under-23s or the first team - it’s his life. What he does for this city and this club is incredible.”
The ‘Great Entertainers’ or the European nights remain a distant memory but at least Benitez is allowing Newcastle fans to dream after years of the harshest reality.