From the moment Rafael Benitez told he was staying on Tyneside following the club’s relegation to the Championship, Newcastle United once again confirmed itself as one the most unique clubs in England.
Well, that is for this season. The Magpies have always been unique. Which other club would appoint Steve McClaren, let him oversee £90 million pumped into his squad before soon leading them to relegation, only to appoint a Champions League winning manager with 10 games to go?
Newcastle’s hierarchy are finally learning how employing a high-profile manager, might actually work.
United’s troubles on the pitch have been a common occurrence under Mike Ashley’s reign, where the Cockney owner has lead the club to two relegations. However, one thing that has always remained consistent is the vocal supporters.
Known as one of the most loyal fan bases in the country, that reputation will only be increased as a staggering 33,000 season tickets have been sold for the upcoming 2016-17 season.
And although the club have dropped a division into the Championship, more fans have paid a substantial amount of money in a hope of cheering their football club back to Premier League.
'Rafa effect' in full flow
There is undoubtedly one driving factor behind the increase of season ticket sales, and that is manager Benitez.
The Spaniard eased the pain on relegation when he agreed to stay on as Toon boss just weeks after the final game of the season, a stunning 5-1 win against Tottenham Hotspur, which turned into Rafa mania as fans begged the 56-year-old to stay.
Fans have taken to Benitez since the minute he walked through the door at St James’ Park. His reputation around Europe made it a real coup for United.
However, as Benitez approaches his fifth month in the North East, the fans have been drawn to his kind-hearted side - completely changing the club from top to bottom.
The ex-Real Madrid manager was the man that finally made the stubborn Mike Ashley and his apprentice, Lee Charnley, change their approach towards the club’s transfer policy and its manager.
Both Alan Pardew and McClaren failed to gain control over any say in which players joined Newcastle. And as the approach hit full flow, United began to flirt with relegation.
Relegation became a reality, but now, Benitez is in control, of everything. The experienced Spaniard has dealt smartly in the transfers window, signing players with proven experience and leadership skills, re-visiting the issue of last seasons pathetic and disastrous Premier League campaign.
The summer spending will continue. But with the current additions of Matz Sels, Dwight Gayle, Matt Ritchie, Jesus Gamez and Isaac Hayden all carrying their own qualities, the upcoming season promises to be a one that ends in glory.
And it’s not just on the pitch that Benitez has focused on improving. The Benton-base training ground have endured a full renovation. New equipment has been installed in the gym and medical department around the training ground in a bid to make complex a new space for working and also relaxing.
Facilities such as a 4G pitch have been introduced as well as the academy undergoing a renovation in parts to increase the amount of young players coming through at Newcastle.
Benitez has restored pride and hope in Newcastle United. The Spaniard has looked to improve in the short-term and long-term, making fans believe that their manager cares for the future of their club.
If there is any reason to believe the trust they place in Benitez, it's selling more season tickets for a Championship season under Rafa, than they did under McClaren and Pardew for a Premier League season.