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
Lewis who? Adam Wilson on a path to Newcastle United first-team
After losing Lewis Gibson to Everton, Newcastle United have unearthed another gem in Adam Wilson.
Last July Newcastle United fans were left bitterly disappointed in the decision of Lewis Gibson to swap St James’ Park for Goodison Park.
Everton convinced the teenager to leave Tyneside for Merseyside in a deal the Liverpool Echo reported could eventually be worth around £6 million.
It was a shame to see the left-sided defender go and Newcastle fans believe they lost a huge talent, but those feelings have been slightly improved by the form of Adam Wilson at Newcastle.
Reports today are suggesting that Newcastle United are lining up a first professional contract for the player.
The Chronicle report that the Magpies will offer Wilson a two-year deal at the club, in the same week he was called up to the England under-18 side.
It is a reward for a player who has emerged as a regular in the Newcastle under-18s this season and since made his breakthrough into the under-23s.
The left-back is a far more attacking option than Gibson, but still operates in the same areas and has undoubtedly done a lot to let Newcastle forget all about their departed potential star.
This week will see England’s under-18s take on Argentina and Belarus, after already beating Qatar 4-0 in the other international friendly at St George’s Park.
Interestingly both Wilson and Gibson are in the England squad for the fixtures. For the Qatar game, Wilson started and Gibson watched from the bench.
It seems that Newcastle might already have their replacement for the £6 million man in their ranks.
In the end, the Magpies could even end up having the last laugh should Wilson continue on his current trajectory.
Will Newcastle United finally give Adam Armstrong his chance next season?
Adam Armstrong is currently in great form on loan at Blackburn Rovers.
Earlier this month, Blackburn Rovers forward Adam Armstrong was handed the League One Player of the Month award for February.
The England youth international, on loan from Newcastle United, thoroughly deserved the award, scoring four goals and bagging one assist in the same month he turned 21.
It was exactly the spell he needed to remind Toon supporters just how talented he is.
Armstrong, whose current record with Blackburn is seven goals in 12 games, was once considered the club’s most precocious talent.
It is now four years since Armstrong became the club’s second youngest player in Premier League history, when he replaced Luuk de Jong against Fulham.
However, the then 17-year-old has not progressed how he would have wanted at his parent club
Despite scoring 20 goals in 40 games for Coventry City in League One, back in 2015-16, he struggled to at subsequent loan spells with Barnsley and Bolton Wanderers.
Now, however, he looks back to his best. So should Newcastle finally pull the trigger on the striker next season?
Armstrong, who helped England to the FIFA Under-20 World Cup crown, is now 21 years of age and chomping at the bit to get first-team action at St James Park.
Newcastle United fans would love to see Armstrong feature in the first team. After all, the youngster is one of their own and clearly an immense talent.
If given the chance, and some playing time, he could hopefully translate his form with Blackburn to St James’ Park next season.
Not many youngsters have come through the ranks at Newcastle recently and Armstrong was always expected to be the next big star out the academy.
Hopefully, his excellent half of the season at Blackburn ends in promotion and further opportunities at the club he has supported since he was a little boy.
Victor Fernandez furthers Newcastle United first-team claims on Spain tour
The 19-year-old impressed as he featured against Belgian outfit Royal Antwerp.
Newcastle United recently travelled to Spain for a training camp as they attempted to deal with three weeks without a competitive fixture.
Rafa Benitez is an experienced manager and he will have realised the danger that such a gap could pose for his team, especially when it came to the fitness of the squad.
He arranged a training camp in his homeland, which culminated in a unique 135-minute match against Belgian side Royal Antwerp.
It consisted of three periods of 45-minutes, which allowed the manager to give playing time to the fringe players in his squad ahead of the run-in.
Although it gave the opportunity to experiment, only two youth players made the trip to Spain.
Nathan Harker was the back-up goalkeeper as both Rob Elliot and Karl Darlow were struggling with injuries.
The other, Victor Fernandez, caught the eye of Newcastle supporters watching.
Fernandez will be encouraged about further involvement with the first-team, as he was the only young outfield player to feature against Royal Antwerp.
That is a sign that Benitez considers the 19-year-old as one of the best prospects currently with the club.
The Spaniard joined the club just over a year ago from UE Cornella.
The signing went under the radar, but Benitez has an extensive scouting network and he obviously saw something in Fernandez.
Although he is predominantly a winger, he can play anywhere across the front-line is required.
Soon after joining the club, he spoke of not wanting to aim for too much too early when talking to the Newcastle United official club website:
“My purpose was not to make an impact really quickly, because I’m new and I have to get used to English football – it’s really different from Spain. I hope, little by little, I can keep doing good things here.”
Considering this was very quickly after his move to a new country, Fernandez’s words show maturity and show a glimpse into his character.
Benitez is a thorough manager who likes to know everything about the players that he brings to a football club.
There must have been something about the Spanish winger that made the Newcastle manager believe that he could adapt to English football.
There are no guarantees in football when it comes to young players fulfilling their potential.
However, the fact that Fernandez was taken on the mid-season tour to Spain suggests that he is on the right path.
He would have been offered guarantees about a route to the first-team squad and his involvement against Royal Antwerp will have been a reward for his progression since moving to St James’ Park.
He came on for the final 45-minutes and showed flashes of his ability.
There was some nice interplay with Dwight Gayle that resulted in the teenager having a shot on goal.
His trickery and direct style caused problems for his marker and he continued to excite those watching when the ball was his feet.
There is more developing for him to do before he is ready for the first-team in competitive action, but his performance against Antwerp was a positive one.
There is clearly talent there and he will be a player to follow over the coming seasons.
Newcastle are at the early stage of their development under Rafa Benitez and that will mean opportunities are there for young players.
Fernandez could have the ability to take his.
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