By Marc Isaacs
LONDON (Reuters) – Two months without a victory, four consecutive defeats and constant headlines surrounding a possible takeover — that would be enough to test any top flight manager.
Newcastle United had endured a nightmare run of form going nine Premier League games without a win before Saturday’s 3-2 victory at West Ham United.
The last victory came against Crystal Palace on Oct. 21 and the former Liverpool manager must have been wondering if he had lost his magic touch.
But you can never write off the European Cup winner and despite the turmoil surrounding Newcastle, on and off the pitch, Benitez has a habit of delivering when it matters the most.
The Spanish coach has a proven track record when it comes to managing at the highest level and he has a habit of getting the best out of his players.
For all the talk of a possible takeover with Amanda Staveley hoping to persuade Mike Ashley to sell Newcastle to her Dubai-based PCP Capital Partners Middle Eastern investment fund, Benitez has somehow managed to transform his squad at just the right time.
You cannot underestimate the importance of being out of the bottom three on Christmas Day and Newcastle supporters will be optimistic that the second half of the campaign will provide a lot more optimism.
The way Newcastle responded to going behind so early in the game demonstrated the spirit and determination that Benitez has installed in his players and they thoroughly deserved to come away with all three points at London Stadium.
Newcastle are clearly lacking two or three quality players who would help take the club onto another level, but they have individuals who are prepared to give everything for the shirt and none more so than their influential captain Jamaal Lascelles who was outstanding at the heart of the defence.
West Ham were full of optimism after new manager David Moyes looked to have turned their season around with impressive wins over Chelsea and Stoke City and are a major threat with the pace of Michail Antonio and the rejuvenated Marko Arnautovic in the Hammers attack.
But Benitez clearly did his homework on how to stop them and worked hard on causing problems on the counterattack and it proved to be the major difference.
It remains to be seen how a possible takeover will affect Benitez and his long-term future, but one thing is certain – Newcastle have a manager who will give them every chance of achieving success.
For all the teams involved at the bottom of the table, the January transfer window could prove to be the difference for Newcastle and Benitez will be praying he can get in the players to help him achieve his dream of challenging in the top half once again.
(Reporting by Marc Isaacs; Editing by Rex Gowar)