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An open letter to Rafa Benitez

Dear Rafa,

Welcome to the north east. You’ll like it here.

I know you’ve got your hands full sorting out that lot at St. James’ Park at the minute (and by Christ, it’ll tek some sorting) but I’d like to think that, in time, you could get to know us a little better.

Get out on the road on a day off. Drive up to Bamburgh Castle. It’s stunning. Visit Cragside. Go for a walk in the Simonside hills. Wander through Warkworth. See the Castle. Stroll along the beaches. They’re as beautiful as any in Spain, if a hell of a lot colder.

Try some fish and chips in Seahouses. Visit Hadrian’s Wall. We’ve got history here. Border Reiver bastle houses and pele towers (that’s a defensive structure, not a Brazilian footballer’s house, just in case you thought you might find a saviour there). Go to Vindolanda. Visit Bede’s World. Enjoy Alnwick Castle and Gardens. Have a day in Berwick-upon-Tweed. Get yourself a day’s fishing on the Tyne up by Corbridge and Hexham.

Meet the people. We’re friendly and warm.

And get to know the local football scene. You’d be welcome with open arms in the Northern Football Alliance, the Northern League, the North Northumberland, the Tyneside Amateur, the North East Christian and any of the Sunday Leagues.

See, we love our football here. It’s in our blood, our DNA. Passed down the generations, sides where the refrain ‘He’s not as good as his fathaa,’ has been heard for years. We have a social history written in seasons, not years.

Reconnect United with the football people of the region. For too long St. James’ has been a cathedral on Gallowgate hill with closed doors. Distant, isolated, aloof. Find the time to present a few trophies. Come to a social evening, a League Annual dinner.

For being a boss of United is much more than managing top-flight players on the pitch. It’s about reinvigorating the footballing hope in the City and the surrounding countryside. It’s about sending congratulations to Morpeth Town on reaching the semi-finals of the FA Vase and wishing them good luck in the second leg of their tie. Little things like that make a huge difference, believe me.

It’s about re-uniting and reconnecting to football in the region.

It’s about pride.

Good luck in your new role.

All the best,

Left Back in the Dressing Rooms

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