RAFA Benitez can’t walk away from adulation like this, can he?

From the moment he stepped off the team coach until he headed back down the tunnel after watching Newcastle United end the season with their biggest win, he was left with a message that could not have been any clearer.

“We want you to stay. We want you to stay. Rafa Benitez, we want you to stay,” was the cry from the 2,700 supporters in the away end at Craven Cottage, where in truth there were a lot more of them desperate to get their own thoughts across to the Spaniard.

That was just one of the many chants Newcastle’s travelling support belted out over the course of a match-winning 90 minutes which could still prove to be the final appearance with Benitez in charge if talks with Mike Ashley, the club’s owner, are not satisfactory this week.

Ashley, sitting and looking relaxed, was inside the Cottage and close enough to hear every Benitez song.

If this was purely an emotional decision, Benitez would have already agreed an extension because he has a bond that has been difficult for him to replicate since leaving Liverpool and he has suggested he wants to stay.

But he is an ambitious manager who wants to keep improving. The 4-0 win at Fulham lifted Newcastle up a place to 13th – boosting the coffers by a further £1.9m in the process – and it never looked in any doubt from the moment an eighth-minute lead was secured.

Jonjo Shelvey’s stunning volley was followed by Ayoze Perez’s 13th of the season a few minutes later to put Newcastle on track to beat relegated Fulham.

By the time Fabian Schar had added the third with his head in the 61st minute, the Benitez love-in was well underway – and Salomon Rondon capped an impressive loan with his own parting gift in the final minute.

Benitez’s little wave and smile, while chatting with Perez, to the fans as he left the pitch didn’t give much away, but everyone knows this is a situation that needs addressing. Far too many players’ futures are up in the air, and that stretches beyond the four whose deals are up (three loans). One of those, Rondon, and his 12 goals, will be a hard man to replace.

Before a ball had even been kicked at Craven Cottage, supporters were quick to let their feelings known. As Benitez made the walk across the pitch in front of the travelling fans, he was serenaded. It never really stopped.

This might have been Fulham’s final Premier League game, having been condemned to the Championship weeks ago, but the wider topic was whether this would turn out to be Benitez’s farewell. The truth is, nobody knows.

It soon became clear that they would win to climb up to 13th. Fulham, with ex-Magpie Scott Parker appointed head coach after a decent run of form, had started brightly enough without seriously testing Martin Dubravka.

But Newcastle soon found themselves two goals to the good from their first couple of attacks. After Joe Bryan had almost turned a Ritchie cross into his own net, the lead arrived from the corner.

Ritchie’s delivery picked out Shelvey unmarked on the edge of the area. He controlled confidently and arched his body to curl a beautiful right-footed volley beyond Sergio Rico’s outstretched right hand.

Shelvey, with uncertainty surrounding his own future because of interest from West Ham, ran the full length of the pitch to celebrate with the Newcastle fans.

If Rico couldn’t have done much to stop that, the same could not be said of the second less than three minutes later. Christian Atsu’s low drive should have been held but instead Rico spilled the effort and Perez reacted first to poke the rebound over the line.

That was the cue for the Newcastle fans to really push their Benitez message and it never relented, even though Fulham did control the rest of the half and Rico was not asked to make another save.

The restart was more of the same initially. Newcastle, with their two-goal advantage, seemed happy enough to allow Fulham to have more of the possession. Rarely did the visitors get into the attacking third of the field until the third goal arrived, and the hosts were frustrated by an effective backline, with Lascelles and Schar particularly impressive.

And, after a couple of signs Newcastle might want more, the impressive Schar added to the lead. The Swiss defender, who had got in the way of plenty crosses in a defensive sense, moved strongly to nod Ritchie’s corner down and beyond Rico just after the hour.

Rondon had already gone close to scoring before he eventually did cap his season loan with a goal. After Perez had played him in, Rondon had an initial effort blocked by Rico but he made sure with the second opportunity from a tight angle.

Newcastle returned home with Benitez in charge, and how they need him again next season.