Rafa Benitez has given an impressive one-to-one interview with Sky Sports, responding positively to questions about his future, stating that ‘conversations’ will take place, but between now and January he is fully focused on footballing matters and continuing to improve his current players.
When asked over the weekend if his future on Tyneside was still up in the air the Spaniard said:
“At the moment I am only focused on the games and improving the team we have.
“My background is a coach, not a manager, I have been working all my life as a coach to improve players. It is what I like to do.”
Benitez was then asked what his long-term vision was at the club, being asked if he felt it would possible to achieve that, or did he feel things were ‘too much out of his hands?’.
In response he said:
“You have to have a plan. Then you have to have ideas, then try to implement these ideas.
“We will have conversations about what we want to do but at the moment, we have some time until January to be sure what we want to do in terms of football is done.”
Some relatively reassuring comments, suggesting he is focused, but ready to have conversations in January to discuss how they can ‘implement’ their ideas.
Finally, Rafa was asked what has changed the most since relegation, with Benitez giving an interesting response, suggesting there is now a tighter knit group of players, with more ‘commitment’ and ‘desire’:
“When I came towards the end of that season, we had 33 players, now we have 26.
“These 33, a lot of them knew they would not be here in the future. That meant the atmosphere was different.
“With the 26 it is different – they know they will be here for some time – their commitment, their desire.
“When the fans talk about them they say, ‘They care about the black and white shirt’, I think this is the most important thing.”
Rafa is spot on here, and this could be a key contributor to us potentially staying ups this season. Through the spine of our team we have players who lead by example and play like the ‘care about the black and white shirt’ as Rafa alludes to.
The likes of Lascelles and Ritchie clearly ‘get it’, with new boys like Merino and Joselu also showing they’ll put a shift in for the team, and that is half the battle.
Benitez seems focused and happy to focus on the footballing side of things and we have a team behind him that care. We may lack quality and cutting edge in areas but having a focused Rafa Benitez and a squad ready to give their all gives us a every chance to compete.