“In the Championship season, we did a poll midway through, when the club had appointed Rafa and backed him in the transfer market, and 85% of people approved of what Ashley had done.
“There will always be mistrust of Ashley, he isn’t suddenly going to become a hero up here, but if he keeps Rafa and backs him, the protest movement will die down.”
For now, supporters are a little more optimistic, the signing of Almiron, as well as left back Antonio Barreca, have lifted the mood.
“I feel a little bit more positive about things,” said Alex Hurst, editor of the True Faith fanzine. “I think there is nothing Mike Ashley and [managing director] Lee Charnley would have liked to do that spend no money in January again, particularly considering the victory over Cardiff that put a bit of daylight between us and the relegation zone, with some winnable fixtures coming up.
“The fact they have splurged a lot of money on a player the manager clearly demanded they signed, shows they are at least trying to keep him beyond the end of the season.
“There has been a view that Ashley would be quite happy to see Rafa leave so that he could be replaced with someone more compliant, so this is more positive.
“Will Rafa stay now? Well, I think there will at least be a conversation about his future between now and the end of the season, but I don’t think it’s going to happen straightaway.
“He will want guarantees about what sort of funds he’s going to have to improve the team moving forward. This has to be the start of a change in the way things are done, not a one off.”