Connect with us

Opinions

Newcastle and the Loyalty Project


Josh Sippie takes a look at Rafa Benitez’s approach and style at Premier League newboys Newcastle United.


Liverpool, Inter, Chelsea, Inter, Napoli, Real Madrid, Newcastle United. You may look at that list and be able to pinpoint the one that doesn’t belong. But in truth, they all belong. Those are all the teams that Benitez has managed, in order, going back to 2004.

When Newcastle were relegated, I figured that was it. A high-profile manager like Benitez couldn’t be coaching in the EFL Championship. He hadn’t coached in the second tier of any league since he helped CD Tenerife gain promotion in 2000/01. And even that earned him a promotion of sorts to Valencia, where his high-profile coaching career began.

But he stayed. Rafa Benitez, who has won the UEFA Manager of the Year award twice and won the Champions League, stayed to coach in the EFL Championship. And naturally, he won manager of the year in the EFL Championship.

Newcastle is a team of so much pride. Their supporters are voracious and always fill the massive St. James Park – the seventh largest stadium in all of England  – with their black and white stripes. This is not a team that is made for the EFL Championship. Benitez saw that. Benitez knew that.

“The love I could feel from the fans was a big influence in my decision,” the renowned manager said about playing in the second tier. “This is a huge club and I wanted to be part of the great future I can see for Newcastle United. I’m convinced we can go up next season, stay in the Premier League for a long time and win trophies. This is a massive club and I want to stay part of it.”

Even still, in the modern era of sports, where loyalty can be purchased with a juicy paycheck (and it doesn’t even have to be that juicy), this was a monumental decision by Benitez that made him an overnight legend in Newcastle upon Tyne, as if he wasn’t already.

And Benitez showed his passion for the club by targeting very specific type of players in the 2016 transfer window – players who were driven by passion and determination in addition to the misfit or the outcast.

Matt Ritche, Isaac Hayden, Ciaran Clark, Jonjo Shelvey – these are guys that fight and they were all purchased in 2016, among others. But they are also guys that have been rejected, in a sense. Hayden was never given his chance to breakthrough with Arsenal. Shelvey’s attitude has seen him out-casted from the likes of Liverpool and Swansea. Ciaran Clark, an Aston Villa product since he was a boy, made the decision to leave behind his history with his lifelong club in an attempt to rejuvenate his career, which had stalled since he was touted as an up-an-coming stalwart in his younger days.

And Matt Ritchie? You don’t get more passionate and determined than him. He had been trying for so long to touch down in the Premier League and yet, when he finally did in 2015/16 after helping Bournemouth earn promotion the previous year, he traded that one year in the top flight to join the Magpies.

Dwight Gayle is another – constantly struggling with injuries and unable to hold down a starting role, Gayle continued to lead Crystal Palace in goals each and every year, yet he dropped all of that to unite behind the Newcastle cause.

These aren’t flashy signings. They are a band of effort-centric misfits. And with the wise leadership of Rafa Benitez, it was almost like seeing a school master take a bunch of outcasts that he intends to turn into scholars.

It was that collection of outcasts that saw Newcastle promoted with ease. But that was the easy part. Effort alone, having gritty, determined players can win you the EFL Championship, but staying afloat in the Premier League requires a bit more technical ability, which requires investment. However, the benefit of a fat transfer window war chest eluded Benitez and he was forced to make more out of less. Which, you could already say, he did wonderfully. Benitez simply applied the same strategy that he had used the previous summer and stayed on the trend of outcasts.

Joselu, for instance. Never able to hold down a role with Stoke City, the Spaniard found new hope in Newcastle. Christian Atsu was a near-casualty of the Chelsea loan circus, but Newcastle rescued him. Mikel Merino, always pinpointed as an incredibly promising young midfielder, was getting bogged down in a cluttered Borussia Dortmund system. He secured a loan to Newcastle that will see him purchased if he makes 20 appearances.

Again, the trend is easy to see. Benitez is giving talented players fresh starts. He also targeted Lucas Perez, but the deal could never be pushed through. More of the same – misfits and outcasts.

How do you not root for a project like this? They aren’t overspending to land a bunch of egotistical superstars (even if not totally by choice). They are targeting guys who were once on the up but have since taken a tumble. Guys that will be grateful for the opportunity.

Benitez is building a team based on loyalty, which all started with his ultimate display of loyalty. It’s a club that is walking the walk rather than just talking the talk.

In the modern era of sports, that is a rarity. So much so that it deserves to be recognized for what it is – a break from the cultural norm of record-breaking signings and jogging after surrendered possession. These guys want to play for the club and the manager that is giving them a second (or even third or fourth) chance.

 

 

Josh Sippie

Josh Sippie

Josh Sippie is a Yank who lives in New York City and follows all football (the real kind) religiously. He is a diehard Arsenal supporter and has found a practical use to his tortured fandom by serving as the site expert of the aptly named “Pain in the Arsenal.” He despises flopping and is proud that his fellow Americans are finally getting the picture and taking football (the real kind) seriously.
Josh Sippie

100 to Watch

Latest

Indian Football2 months ago

Indian Super League 2017-18: U-23 Young Indian Players’ Team of the Season

At the end of the 2017-18 Indian Super League season, it is time for us at Outside of the Boot...

Indian Football2 months ago

Scout Report: Jerry Lalrinzuala | India’s Promising Young Defender

Hrishi Anand provides a scout report which analyses India and Chennaiyin’s promising young defender, Jerry Lalrinzuala Indian football has taken...

Scout Report2 months ago

Scout Report: Houssem Aouar | Lyon’s young midfield star

Kwame Atteen writes a detailed scout report about Houssem Aouar, the Lyon and France midfielder. While we are all so...

Talent Radar3 months ago

U-22 Young Players’ Team of the Week #16: Youri Tielemans and Patrick Cutrone feature

A regular feature on our website is the Talent Radar Young Players Team of the Week with the best young...

Talent Radar4 months ago

Brasileirão U-23 Young Players’ Team of the Season 2017: Talent Radar

As the 2017 Brasileirao season has finished, it is time for us at Outside of the Boot to recognize the...

Talent Radar4 months ago

2017 Meiji Yasuda J1 League: Top 5 U-22 Players of the Season

Steven Davies sits down and takes a look at, who in his opinion, have been the best of a bright...

Opinions4 months ago

The Resurrection of Nicklas Bendtner

Harry Burford writes about the resurrection of Nicklas Bendtner. Whilst Denmark’s Nicklas Bendtner has all but disappeared from our collective footballing...

Bengaluru FC4 months ago

Analysis | Three Things We Learned: ATK 0-2 Bengaluru

Arinjay Ghosh discusses three talking points about the Indian Super League game that finished ATK 0-2 Bengaluru Bengaluru FC scored...

Indian Football4 months ago

Analysis | Three Things We Learned: ATK 1-2 Chennaiyin

Arinjay Ghosh discusses three talking points about the Indian Super League game that finished ATK 1-2 Chennaiyin Chennaiyin FC came...

Talent Radar4 months ago

U-22 Young Players’ Team of the Week #15: Franck Kessie and Leon Bailey feature

A regular feature on our website is the Talent Radar Young Players Team of the Week with the best young...

Indian Football4 months ago

Analysis | Three Things We Learned: Pune City 3-0 ATK

Naven Venkat discusses three talking points about the Indian Super League game that finished Pune City 3-0 ATK Playing the...

Indian Football4 months ago

Mohun Bagan Vs East Bengal: The Enduring Allure Of The Kolkata Derby

Arinjay Ghosh looks at the significance of the Kolkata Derby and why in the ever-changing landscape of Indian football, Mohun...

Indian Football4 months ago

Analysis | Three Things We Learned: Mumbai City 0-1 Kerala Blasters

Vatsal Dani discusses three talking points about the Indian Super League game that finished Mumbai City 0-1 Kerala Blasters Iain...

Bengaluru FC4 months ago

Analysis | Three Things We Learned: Delhi Dynamos 2-2 Bengaluru

Aakriti Mehrotra discusses three talking points about the Indian Super League game that finished Delhi Dynamos 2-0 Bengaluru When Delhi...

Bengaluru FC5 months ago

Analysis | Three Things We Learned: Bengaluru 1-0 ATK

Arnab Ray discusses three talking points about the Indian Super League game that finished Bengaluru 1-0 ATK With the Indian...

Indian Football5 months ago

Analysis | Three Things We Learned: Chennaiyin 2-2 Delhi Dynamos

Hrishi Anand discusses three talking points about the Indian Super League game that finished Chennaiyin 2-2 Delhi Dynamos Chennaiyin FC...

Indian Football5 months ago

Analysis | Three Things We Learned: ATK 1-1 FC Goa

Arinjay Ghosh discusses three talking points about the Indian Super League game that finished ATK 1-1 FC Goa FC Goa...

Indian Football5 months ago

Analysis | Three Things We Learned: Pune City 5-0 NorthEast United

Naven Venkat discusses three talking points about the Indian Super League game that finished Pune City 5-0 NorthEast United This...

Tactical Analysis5 months ago

Tactical Analysis: Real Madrid 0-3 Barcelona | Los Blancos Implode in the 2nd Half

Om Arvind provides a tactical analysis of the La Liga game that finished Real Madrid 0-3 Barcelona Barcelona were 11...

Indian Football5 months ago

Analysis | Three Things We Learned: ATK 1-0 Delhi Dynamos

Arinjay Ghosh discusses three talking points about the Indian Super League game that finished ATK 1-0 Delhi Dynamos ATK rode...

Talent Radar Award History

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this site and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Young Player Rankings 17-18

More on Outside of the Boot

Previous Next
Close
Test Caption
Test Description goes like this