Rafa Benitez reveals his highlights and lowest ebb at Newcastle United as he reflects on one year in charge at St James's Park

Rafa Benitez.
Rafa Benitez.

Tomorrow marks one year to the day that Rafa Benitez took control of Newcastle United.

And it's fair to say it's been an eventful 12 months with the Spaniard at the helm.

Not many expected the former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss to take the job at the relegation-threatened Magpies this time last year, especially so soon after a stint at the Bernabeu.

But do so he did, and despite a late upsurge in results United suffered relegation to the Championship, with Sunderland claiming bragging rights by downing their bitterest rivals in the final week of the campaign.

At that point even fewer people, even so called experts, thought Benitez would stay to lead United in the second tier.

But, here we are, one year on and Benitez is still the man leading the United charge.

Still question marks remain over his future. Questions are never ending, and his answers remain the same - he sounds like a man who will stay at United, provided he is backed and allowed to have control.

The biggest question mark surrounding the whole issue, though, is whether the club's hierarchy will allow Rafa the level of power and control he craves.

One thing that is certain is that Benitez is a man who clearly loves the challenge at St James's Park. He sees United as a carbon copy of former club Liverpool, in heart and in soul.

"Before I came, everybody was talking about a massive club and a massive city and fans behind the team," he said.

"That is clear for me, you can see in every home and away game. In the city, everybody is loving the club.

"They love the name of the club and the stature.

"In terms of pressure and all these things, you know what can happen when you go to a massive club.

"We are in the Championship but we are still a massive club.

"We have to have the winning mentality you need, but still be humble and work hard."

Benitez is a very honest, earnest individual, you only have to spend a few minutes in his company to know that.

So, with that in mind, it's difficult to believe a man so meticulous in his preparations both on and off the field can let the fact he's spent a year at the helm pass him by.

But that is Benitez's story and he's sticking to it.

“I didn’t realise until I was told," explained the manager.

"Another year, that means you are getting older.

"It has been a great experience and the main thing is to see the club going in the right direction.

"The fans are enjoying this time because everything is going well. Hopefully things will continue going in the right way."

As with any manager, there have been highs and lows in his time at the club.

Benitez pinpoints relegation, as expected, as the lowest ebb of his tenure so far, while he says two particular games from this campaign will live long in the memory.

"I have some good memories," he said of his 12 months on Tyneside.

"To be relegated was the worst thing, but after, the reaction of everyone has been fantastic.

"We have had games, like Norwich and QPR away where the team has been doing so well.

"This week we have had very good results against the teams at the top of the table so they are more good memories. Hopefully the best one will be at the end of the season.

“I don’t think about the next games. Every week, everything can change, we have to just think about this game, that is the best way."