Miles Starforth’s match analysis: Newcastle United 3 West Ham United 0

Ciaran Clark heads home Newcastle's second goal.
Ciaran Clark heads home Newcastle's second goal.

Newcastle United needed that. Rafa Benitez needed it. The players needed it. And so did the club’s fans.

But Saturday’s convincing victory, the club’s first of the new Premier League season, could yet have unforeseen consequences.

West Ham United’s 3-0 defeat at St James’s Park could spell the end of Slaven Bilic’s tenure at the London Stadium.

Why does that matter?

Well, Benitez will be one of the first names considered by West Ham should they dismiss Bilic, who took over at the club two years ago after an agreement with the Spaniard was ripped up following an approach from Real Madrid.

Benitez is still on good terms with David Sullivan, West Ham’s co-owner.

The 57-year-old is also on very good terms with Newcastle’s fans. Unfortunately, Benitez isn’t on such good terms with Mike Ashley.

Benitez hasn’t spoken to the club’s owner since May. And a lot has happened since then.

In his pre-match press conference, Benitez, frustrated with Newcastle’s efforts in the transfer market this summer, had suggested that he was no longer looking “long-term” at St James’s Park.

And that was worrying.

Benitez, however, won’t resign. And Ashley, we understand, won’t sack his manager.

So the only way Benitez could conceivably leave the club this season if another team comes calling.

And that’s why many are uneasy about the prospect of Bilic leaving West Ham.

There was only one flag in the Gallowgate End of the stadium before the game.

It depicted Benitez. It was a simple and powerful show of support for Benitez, a man who wants a long-term project at a Premier League club.

Benitez saw the potential at Newcastle when he first arrived. And it was that potential that persuaded him to stay after relegation from the Premier League.

We saw a tantalising glimpse of what Benitez’s emerging team can do on the pitch against West Ham.

First of all, they were aggressive. They quickly unsettled the visitors. Isaac Hayden was superb. He tackled and ran all afternoon. And Mikel Merino, alongside, used the ball quickly and intelligently.

Up front, Joselu, making his full debut, put himself about, won headers and got into dangerous areas.

And Joselu knew what to do when Merino played the ball to Christian Atsu to the left of Joe Hart’s goal. He continued his run and met Atsu’s low centre.

Newcastle played with intensity and intelligence.

Admittedly, West Ham were dreadful, but this was still an impressive performance.

Benitez had been without the suspended Jonjo Shelvey and a clutch of other players including Florian Lejeune, Dwight Gayle and Paul Dummett.

Ciaran Clark made a crucial goal-line clearance early in the second half before Newcastle pressed on.

And Clark made it 2-0 with a header in the 72nd minute. The goal owed everything to Matt Ritchie’s persistence on the right.

Mitrovic, introduced moments before Clark’s goal, stupidly used his elbow on Manuel Lanzini before delivered a different kind of blow late in the game. The striker rounded Hart to score Newcastle’s third goal four minutes from time.

Sadly, fans didn’t have too much time to enjoy this victory. Hours after the final whistle, Benitez was touted as a potential successor to Bilic.