Rafa Benitez has admitted that he has ‘kept up the communication’ with Andros Townsend since he left the club last summer, with the gaffer suggesting that the Crystal Palace winger was wrong to leave Newcastle United when he did.
The winger was boo’d on his return to St James’ Park on Saturday, and despite going close with a second half shot at the Gallowgate end, he saw his new side beaten by a late Mikel Merino header at the other end.
It’s no secret that Benitez was keen to keep him on Tyneside last summer – and it’s well documented that he tried to bring him back to the club in January – however there is a feeling from fans that he wouldn’t be welcome back at the club, with several fans understandably against the idea of bringing back a player who essentially jumped ship.
Here’s what Benitez has had to say about Townsend, speaking to The Chronicle about his exit for the first time since he left for Crystal Palace:
“It was difficult for him to decide because he was thinking about England opportunities and his career.
“It is difficult when a team is going into the Championship. But he’s not someone who was unhappy and wanted to go for that reason.
“It was just a difficult decision for a professional which you have understand. Maybe he was wrong.
“But he had to decide. For us, he was a good player and we have kept up the communication.
“So everything was fine, it was just a pity.”
Whilst it wouldn’t surprise me if Benitez went back in for Townsend at some stage, Rafa admits that the club will attract new players, suggesting his exit may allow our younger ones (Murphy and Aaarons?) to flourish as a result:
“Normally when you have a city and a massive fan-base then you can deal with players leaving.
“It is always a pity when you lose a good player.
“But in the end, the club and the city helps attract new players.
“Some of the young players here now can flourish during the season.”
I must say, Townsend really was a revelation during his brief spell at the club. He looked capable of taking on a man, getting balls into the box, scoring goals and working hard for the team, giving us everything you’d want from a winger in a Rafa Benitez side.
That being said, I was disappointed to see him leave. We put real faith in him, giving him his second chance in the Premier League after falling out of favour at Spurs, but he let us down after we went down, failing to repay the faith we had put in him.
A part of me would’ve liked him back, but not now.
We want players who are 100% committed to the club and, whilst Townsend may be regretting his decision to leave, it’s too little too late if he wants to come back now we’re back int the top flight and building under Benitez.