The Spaniard made an acrimonious departure from St James’ Park earlier this summer, having failed to agree a contract extension with the club, and Harmison has now had his say on the situation.
“His PR was brilliant throughout his whole tenure at Newcastle, because he knew the supporters were anti-Ashley and he played the situation, in the end, in such a way that I think he thought he had Mike Ashley in a position where ‘right I’ve got him now, he’s going to have to give me what I want’,” he told talkSPORT [14/07; 08:02].
“Mike Ashley’s turned away from that, which is desperate. The stature he had, the person he was, the belief factor in his players in him playing against top sides was why, I think, we got the results we got last year and the year before to keep them in the Premier League.”
Harmison might be right, here. It’s quite possible that Benitez felt in his mind that he did have Ashley in a position where he had to give him whatever he wanted. Benitez’s inner thoughts might have been along the lines of ‘I’m so popular with the fans, I’ve done a great job with limited money, I’ve won multiple trophies over my career, now he has to give me the resources to take the club forward’. However, as we know, that’s not what happened. If Benitez did feel that he had Ashley where he wanted him, he obviously underestimated the Sports Direct tycoon’s stubbornness and immovability. You could say that that was a mistake on his part, but the millions he’s currently raking in in charge of Chinese side Dalian Yifang will probably ensure he feels pretty good about his decision. Still, the supporters will remain gutted about his departure for a long time to come.