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Newcastle: Benitez talks club’s potential; Gayle injury update; Perez talks about the Championship

This week, the Newcastle United Annual Awards Dinner took place and it was well attended by the community. The current squad and club icons such as Shola Ameobi and Steve Harper were also present. Rafa Benitez was the star attraction and at the awards dinner, he spoke to the Chronicle and stated that the attendance showed what a powerful unit the city can be when everybody is pulling in the same direction.

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“If we work together we can achieve a lot. Not just the club, the whole city, it is massive and we have them right behind the club.”

It has been said for a long time that Newcastle United are a sleeping giant that have been underperforming, especially in recent times. There were periods of relative success under Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson, but few have unlocked the huge potential of the club. The early indications are that Rafa Benitez could be that man and these comments suggest that he believes that, at least privately. He has been measured whenever he has been asked about his aims as Newcastle manager, but he is an ambitious man and there should be good times ahead for the Toon Army.

There is an injury update on Dwight Gayle from the Chronicle this morning after the striker missed the visit to Preston last weekend. The club’s top scorer is back in training and steadily improving his fitness, but Benitez won’t risk him if there are still doubts. He has Aleksandar Mitrovic, who is also in great form, therefore there is no great need to rush Gayle back. It could be wiser to give him until after the international break, as Benitez won’t want Gayle to suffer a more serious injury if he isn’t fully fit.

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“He was training but we have to be cautious with him. We will see in two or three days.

“We have some time and we will see how he feels. At the moment he is training and improving little by little.”

The Newcastle boss has shown this season that he won’t rush players back and he will follow the medical advice he receives to the letter. Over the last five years, Newcastle have had injury problems and a lot were caused by players being rushed back too soon. Benitez has built a strong squad and he isn’t reliant on any one individual. That allows him to be cautious with the fitness of his players. If Gayle isn’t involved on Saturday, he might be frustrated, but it will be the best thing for him in the long run.

One player that is set to be involved on Saturday is Ayoze Perez, who is finally beginning to have an impact this season. The Spaniard started slowly and there were doubts cast about his ability to play in the Championship. It was a culture shock for him, as it is a lot more physical that the Premier League and he was bullied at times. He has admitted that it has taken him some time to adapt, but he is now ready to compete for a starting spot.

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“Before the season started I had been told about the league, it’s tough and physical. When you play in it, you realise how intense it is and how physical it is. It took a few games for me to adapt to the league, but now we are doing well and top of the league.”

This shows the differences between the Premier League and the Championship. It wasn’t like Perez was new to English football, but he has had to adapt. He is still a young player and this experience will be positive for him. Despite interest in him during the summer, Perez opted to stay and help Newcastle back to the Premier League. Newcastle are a club on the up now, under a world class manager, Perez is in the right place to continue his development.

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