London - Rafael Benitez returned to English football on Friday with the task
of saving Newcastle United from Premier League relegation after the
struggling north-east side announced the Spaniard as their new manager.
Liverpool boss Benitez, sacked by Real Madrid earlier this season, has
signed a three-year deal with Newcastle, who are currently second-bottom
in the table with just 10 league games remaining this term.
His appointment was announced just hours after Newcastle confirmed that they had sacked former manager Steve McClaren.
have the pleasure to confirm I have committed to a legendary English
club, with the massive challenge of remaining part of the Premier
League," said Benitez in a Newcastle statement.
Benitez was Liverpool's manager from 2004-2010 and also had a brief stint as Chelsea caretaker boss during the 2012/13 season.
tried to rally Newcastle's increasingly frustrated supporters by
saying: "All of us must push together in the same direction and with the
same target in mind. This is the reason why I'm going to ask for your
total support to successfully complete this task."
added: "Personally, it means my return to the Premier League, closer to
my home and my family. I can't be happier.
"C'mon Toon Army! The club and I need your total involvement!"
managing director Lee Charnley hailed Benitez's appointment, saying:
"In Rafa we have, without doubt, secured the services of one of Europe's
"Our sole focus now is to give our full support to
Rafa, his coaching team and the players in order to secure our status in
the Premier League.
Earlier, Charnley found himself apologising
for the "uncertainty" surrounding the 54-year-old McClaren's position
after Saturday's 3-1 home defeat by Bournemouth.
That result was
widely regarded as making any extension of the former England manager's
nine-month Newcastle reign impossible, with the Magpies having won just
six of their 28 league games so far this season, and on Friday the club
said McClaren had been sacked with "immediate effect".
in a statement issued later Friday through the League Managers'
Association, said he understood why he had been sacked but insisted he
could have turned the tide of poor results.
"I am obviously very
disappointed with the decision," he said. "I appreciate any frustrations
relating to the team's results and the club subsequently finding itself
in a battle to avoid relegation. I remain confident, however, that we
would have stayed in the Premier League with a view to building for next
"I would like to place on record what a privilege it has
been to manage Newcastle United Football Club. It is a great a club -
the embodiment of the city, with incredible supporters."
fans have long been unhappy with the way Newcastle's millionaire owner
Mike Ashley, the man behind Britain's Sports Direct chain, has run the
The team's troubles have been reflected in a merry-go-round
at St James' that has seen 10 managers in the 12 years since Bobby
Robson, another ex-England boss, left in 2004.
For all their
passionate support and 'big club' status, Newcastle have not won a major
trophy since the 1969 European Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, a forerunner of
the Europa League.
They spent $41 million on new players during the January transfer window in a bid to
avoid the drop but only Aston Villa are below them in the table,
although the Magpies are just a point away from safety.
who guided Liverpool to Champions League glory in 2005, will have just
days to get to know his new players before a formidably tough first
match away to Premier League leaders Leicester on Monday.
first home game in charge will be against local rivals Sunderland on
March 20, one of the most significant Tyne-Wear derbies in years given
the Black Cats are also battling to avoid relegation.