Former Newcastle defender Steve Howey launched an impassioned defence of Rafa Benitez and the Toon fans on The Debate.

Newcastle, who are yet to win in the Premier League this season after a difficult summer in the transfer market, were dumped out of the Carabao Cup by Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.

With the strength of Benitez’s relationship with Mike Ashley still uncertain, Newcastle’s current financial predicament has led to protests from the fans and confusion as to why funds aren’t being spent on the squad.

Here, Howey gave his view on the situation, and why Rafa has been working with his hands behind his back…

It hasn’t been a great start to the season. You can argue: should Rafa play his strongest team to get the win? Or is this an opportunity for fringe players to push themselves? It’s disappointing. But I think the manager is more or less concentrating on what he can do in the league.

It’s going to be very difficult for it to get better. Look at who Newcastle have got coming up in the league. The fans are frustrated at what happened in the transfer market. A lot of criticism of the fans has come out recently; that they believe they have a God-given right. That is not the case.

The fact is, fans are disappointed because they can’t see the club moving forward, progressing in any way.

They had a perfect opportunity at the end of last season to progress, finishing 10th. Newcastle made £123m from the Premier League and TV last year, plus £43.5m from selling the likes of Mitrovic.

Mike Ashley was on Sky saying Rafa Benitez would get every penny generated. That hasn’t been the case.

He said he wants to sell the club. That hasn’t been the case, or the club has gone up for too much money.

Rafa Benitez, for me, should have at least got the money for the players sold. He didn’t.

Newcastle fans are not asking to compete with Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal or Manchester United. We’d just like to compete with the rest of the teams.

He hasn’t been given a lot to spend. Rafa hasn’t been given the opportunity to bring players in. You’ve got a first-class manager there and he hasn’t been given the tools to make things work.

If he’s finishing 10th, how good could he be with money behind him? At the moment, he is working with his hands [tied] behind his back.

The fans are getting behind the manager, he is Newcastle’s biggest asset, as far as I’m concerned. If they lose him, they are really struggling.

Would Rafa resign? No. I’d be very surprised. I think he has given his word, he gets the fans, gets the city, and the fans love him for that.

The fans just feel as though it would be nice to have some hope to point the club in the right direction. They feel they have the manager in Benitez, but not the man above him, and he’s the most important one.

I don’t think the owner would be that disappointed if the club went down.



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