IT did not come as a surprise to many, but when Rafael Benitez’s departure from Newcastle United was announced fans were still left reeling.

Just hours after the news broke, even Sir Bobby Robson’s statue appeared to be weeping as drenching rain poured down its face outside the hallowed grounds of St James' Park.

In The Strawberry Pub nearby, fans gathered to mull over their feelings of anger, dismay and uncertainty about the future.

Kevin Millian, 53, said: “ Rafael leaving? It’s Newcastle United. Are we surprised? Well it’s Mike Ashley’s Club, so we are not surprised.

“We do not know what is going to happen. We never do. A lot of people have given up their season tickets over the years because of the owner, but some of us still love the club. We’ll still be there to support the club, whoever owns it."

Michael Hill, landlord of Strawberry Pub, said: "It’s devastating. I think a lot of people knew this was coming. But it's still a real blow for people. We’ll just have to see what comes through."

Stuart Dunn, 67, said: “I think the odds of 6-1 of getting relegated are much shorter than at the start of the season. We have no hope. The new manager has got to come and get new players .

“We have five weeks until the transfer window shuts. We are not going to go anywhere. If we go for (former Middlesbrough manager) Gary Monk he has not got a good track record. Whoever it is will have to be a yes man to Ashley, like Pardew was."

Paul Moseley, 46, added: “Rafa leaving will be a massive loss to the club.

“He was brilliant at managing a team, not only his tactics and technical know-how, but his man management, which was fantastic. There are not many people in the sport who have those skills and we have just lost that today. The club is going to struggle to find a replacement for him."

Barry Marshall, 37 said: "Most Newcastle fans have resigned themselves to it over the last few weeks. Uncertainty over the takeover has probably helped keep a lid on fans' feelings, but it think that lid has come off now and there is going to be all fury unleashed over the next few weeks.

"I cannot see any managerial appointment being a step forward for the club. It is a huge regression. There is a huge amount of anger with the news breaking, but I think that will give way to apathy."

Former Newcastle striker Mick Quinn tweeted: “Well I feared the worst, and its happening Rafa leaving @NUFC. They offered him a one year contract and no assurances,Rafa is a World Class Manager he loved his time at the club and its another sad and embarrassing day for this big club.”

Former Newcastle midfielder Lee Clark said he expected an angry backlash from fans.

“Total shock, devastation among Newcastle fans but not very surprising. There will be a huge backlash from the support. There will be a lot of anger."

Some of that anger was vented when a group of fans mounted a noisy protest beneath Sir Bobby's statue on Monday night.