Newcastle’s Spanish Inquisition Can Grind Out Away Wins Under Rafa Benitez

“Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition –
Our chief elements are fear, surprise & ruthless efficiency…”

Its a classic Monty Python joke yet also a quote that applies to Newcastle’s superb away form last season under Rafa Benitez, whose club record-breaking black and whites won 14 games on the road, scoring 36 goals, conceding just 17 and amassing 46 Championship points on their way to promotion and the first trophy of The Rafalution.

Its worth mentioning that Benitez’s Newcastle side have yet to win a Premier League away game but where better a place to change that than The John Smith’s Stadium, Huddersfield – the scene of a resounding 3-1 win in a crucial week for The Magpies in March?

JonJo Shelvey may have fluffed his lines in The Magpies’ season opener much like the characters in the popular Monty Python sketch – which first made an appearance in Jarrow – were wont to do yet Newcastle can get their season firmly on track at the second attempt today as Benitez’s sides are superb travellers.

A major feature of Benitez’s transfer business this summer has been the increase in the Spanish flavour of his squad – three new Spanish players have arrived in the shape of Javier Manquillo, Mikel Merino, and this week, Joselu Mato (Mato translates to ‘Killer’ in English) to complement the two already on board, Ayoze Perez and Jesus Gamez.

Benitez’s coaching boot room at St. James’ Park is also full of Spaniards with First Team Coach Mike Antia, Fitness Coach ‘Paco’ De Miguel Moreno and Antonio Gomez Perez also hailing from their manager’s home country, where new French signing Florian Lejeune, hacked off last week by Harry Kane, has spent the majority of his career.

New signing Joselu who arrived this week from Stoke City via Real Madrid, the Bundesliga and Deportiva La Coruna begins his Newcastle career with a point to prove and a great platform on which to do it under a manager who has long-tracked his career and believes his potential may be unleashed by a manager speaking the same language. Benitez said:

“We knew him when he was in the academy at Real Madrid and he was the top scorer. He was doing well..
Obviously, in Spain, when he was at Deportivo La Coruna, we had some information, and when he was in Germany. We know the player and we know he has the potential…
It’s easier for me to talk to him in Spanish than maybe it is for Mark Hughes, so then if I have to transmit something, maybe I can do it.”

Midfielder Mikel Merino has been compared to Spanish compatriot Cesc Fabregas and made a very promising cameo at St. James’ Park on his debut against Spurs last week as a second-half substitute and shored up Newcastle’s midfield after Shelvey saw red. The Spain Under 21 midfielder on loan for a season from Borussia Dortmund showed an energy, combativeness and passing range that could see him become a fixture in the United side this season and Newcastle forced 11-men Spurs back following his arrival on the pitch.

Ex-Sunderland right-back Manquillo had a mixed debut as Newcastle’s back four was shuffled around twice and, while he looked composed on the ball & good going forward, both goals were scored on his side as 10 Magpies chased 11 Spurs’ shadows trying to cover men and space against one of the Premier League’s most intelligent & mobile attacks.

With Rafa hinting at “surprises” to come in the transfer market, don’t bet against their holding Spanish passports as he mines his extensive contacts and expert knowledge of the game in La Liga.

Newcastle’s French Revolution under Alan Pardew and the signings of Scout Graham Carr, notably Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa & Moussa Sissoko may have been tempestuous yet it was by no means a failure with the club finishing 5th in 2011/2 and reaching the Quarter-Finals of the Europa League before fizzling out into relegation battles.

That Europa League trophy in 2012/3 was, of course, won by Rafa Benitez at Chelsea beating Benfica in the final yet as Fate had it, Pardew’s French team beat Chelsea spectacularly 3-2 in The Premier League at St. James’ Park in a pulsating encounter that marked Sissoko’s sensational debut and the high point of his Newcastle career.

Benitez – and his taskmaster Mike Ashley – will hope that his Spanish Rafalution can beat the odds and eventually not just hit the height of the Top 5 and European football but go one further and eventually crack The Champion’s League positions and win silverware with a club bereft of real success since 1969.

Yet therein lines the ultimate challenge and appeal of the St. James’ Park position. Rather like the mythical Arthur, whoever pulls the managerial Sword in the Stone and achieves success at the Northern club where so many have ultimately fallen short of silverware from Kevin Keegan to Sir Bobby Robson can claim to be the best manager in England. It is now a greater achievement than, say, Jose Mourinho winning everything at a global powerhouse like Man United where everything is set up for success and the best players in the world can be bought.

Like Rafa’s teams away from home built on solid, organised defences with stunning counter-attacking at lightning pace, the Magpies retain the ability to surprise and just like Benitez’s out-of-the-blue arrival at St. James’ Park that shocked the football world, always expect the unexpected from Newcastle United…



Managing Director of 50 Shades of Black and White.