Newcastle United’s Rafa Benitez has been nominated for September’s manager of the month award in the Sky Bet Championship. The Magpies currently sit 3rd in the second tier, one point off of Norwich City who occupy the final automatic promotion place. Three wins, a draw and a loss in the league over the ninth month of the year is good enough form for the Spaniard to be recognised as one of four nominees for manager of the month.
But the question is: does he deserve to win it?
On the one hand, yes he should. It is very easy for fans of “bigger” clubs that get relegated from the Premier League to assume that they should win the Championship at a canter. To be fair to Newcastle that did occur the last time they were in the second tier, but such occurrences are rare (ask Nottingham Forest and Leeds United fans amongst others!).
For seasoned spectators of the Championship, it was almost easy to predict an initial struggle from sides such as Newcastle and Aston Villa, who are not used to playing in the second division. Newcastle did lose their first two games, but crucially when compared to Aston Villa, have arrested this slide and now look like the pre-season favourites they were touted.
September started with two away trips for the Toon, and before QPR were blown away 6-0 at Loftus Road, Derby County were also dispatched 2-0. A home loss to Wolves preceded a draw with Villa before Benitez’s men pulled off the comeback of the season by defeated Norwich 4-3 in incredibly dramatic fashion.
So in short, without flying out of the traps, and without really hitting their full stride so far, Newcastle are slowly finding their feet and happen to be only three points off of the top of the table. Not bad at all.
However, there are three other candidates for the gong, all of which arguably deserve it just as much as Rafa.
Alex Neil’s Norwich City side were unlucky to go down to Newcastle in that dramatic 4-3 thriller at St. James’ Park. Norwich, like Newcastle, also won three games in September, losing only to Forest and the Toon. Finding himself in the automatic promotion places, with three wins to his name, Alex Neil may well be hoping for the manager of the month award, but his two losses over the course of the month may mean he has to settle for just the nomination.
Stam’s Reading edged ever closer to the play-offs (The Royals now lie just two points off of sixth position) due to their form over September – winning three, drawing one and losing one. This is the same record as Newcastle, and includes a 1-0 success over league leaders Huddersfield Town (who incidentally beat Newcastle back in August). That said, Reading’s only defeat was a 4-1 humbling at nearly local rivals Brentford, which may be enough to rule out Stam for the gong.
Carlos Carvalhal’s Sheffield Wednesday have the best record out of the four sides referenced here. The Owls have won four times, just a solitary loss to Birmingham City being the only blemish on the Portuguese’s copybook the past month. Not only have four wins been recorded, but the manner in which they have been won is nothing short of fantastic. Rafa’s Newcastle have one amazing comeback over Norwich, whilst Wednesday had dramatic comeback wins against Nottingham Forest and most notably Bristol City – where after being 2-0 down at half time won 3-2 (after a red for both sides, and a missed penalty which resulted in a goal at the other end inside a minute!). Carvalhal has even gone on record to point out the ridiculous run of dramatic late wins which is playing havoc with his heart rate!
In conclusion, the reality is that no manager may want the award due to the infamous curse that affects the form of the team of the manager that wins each month. However, if it were done to me, as much as Rafa deserves credit for the work he is doing at Newcastle, if one studies September alone, it is Carvalhal who deserves the award.
Featured image: All rights reserved by Tim Killeen