Today is the day that most Newcastle United will have feared was coming, but will have hoped never did.
After months of speculation, and after years of abysmal ownership, it was finally confirmed by the club via Twitter that Rafa Benitez will not be renewing his current deal on Tyneside, and that he will leave St. James’ Park this week.
Naturally, there has been uproar from fans, and an outpouring of emotion that has encompassed anger, disappointment, and concern for the future.
Benitez is a world class manager, but perhaps the worst thing about this whole sorry situation is that it should, and arguably could, have been avoided.
The club have known when Benitez’s contract was due to expire from the day he signed it, and yet it has taken until the final week of the deal for any kind of confirmation to be made.
And things have been so clandestine and murky that even those supposedly in-the-know have been left scratching their heads a little.
Writing on his personal Twitter account, Sky Sports journalist Keith Downie was quick to express his astonishment at the news.
He said: “Honestly thought the two would somehow find a resolution, so I’m shocked this has come today.
“Forget takeovers, keeping Rafa Benitez was the most important thing for Newcastle and they’ve failed.
“Sadly the Spaniard has proved to be too big a manager for Newcastle under its current guise.”
This is arguably the most clear statement yet of just how wrong the Magpies have got it by letting Benitez go.
The fact that a reporter of Downie’s know-how and stature is surprised by his departure should be evidence enough of how nailed on a renewal should have been, but the fact that he has gone as far as to deem the whole affair a failure shows just how much the Toon Army needed to keep Rafa.
Here’s hoping that somehow, against all the odds, the bring in a worthy replacement.