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Newcastle: Benitez talks trophies; Colback impressed by squad mentality; Gamez has a role to play

There are positive noises coming out of Newcastle United regarding the cup competitions and that will please supporters, as they have famously not won a trophy since 1969. Despite promotion being the club’s main aim this season, Rafa Benitez realises that he has a squad that is strong enough to compete on multiple fronts and has stated that he will never disregard the cups while in charge at St James’ Park. The two previous managers have played weakened sides in the cup competitions and that has meant that the club haven’t been on a meaningful cup run in years. The Spaniard told the Chronicle:

“We try to put the strongest team out for each game every time. If I pick different players for the cup, it is not because I don’t consider the cup to be important. It is just that I see the need to change things for that particular game.”

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Benitez is a huge believer in rotation and that has been evident in the EFL Cup matches this season, but he has continued to pick strong teams. For example, Matt Ritchie started in the last round of the competition and he is seen as one of Newcastle’s best players. The Magpies face a difficult tie against Preston North End in a couple of weeks, but a victory would take them through to the quarter finals. It would be great for the club if they manage to get to that stage of the competition and you wouldn’t back against Benitez taking them even further.

In an interview with BBC Newcastle, Jack Colback has taken a veiled dig at the likes of Daryl Janmaat, Gini Wijnaldum and Moussa Sissoko. The former Sunderland midfielder has said that the mood in the dressing room has improved since the summer and that the club now have players with the correct mentality.

“Sometimes you get that group which have the right mentality,”

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“All the lads are good lads, we all get on and we fight for each other. It’s the best it has been by a mile, I think it’s what the club was missing.”

It was clear that the players that left over the summer didn’t want to be at the club, regardless of whether United remained in the Premier League or not. The club’s transfer policy in the past caused players to see Newcastle as a stepping stone to bigger things and this created a negative atmosphere in the dressing room. There were a group of players that were never committed to the club and that was partly why the club were relegated. That has changed under Benitez and the squad are now pushing in the same direction. It may seem like a small thing, but this is crucial for the growth of the football club.

Jesus Gamez hasn’t been able to feature much over the start of the season due to a calf injury, but Benitez is hoping that his fellow countryman can increase competition for places in defence after the international break. The former Atletico Madrid player was a high profile signing over the summer and is able to play in either full back position.

“When we signed him we were bringing in an experienced player in who can play on both sides of the defence.

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“For us it has been a pity. But the good thing I would say about him was he was training every day and not missing anything. He was pushing himself.

“The bad thing was that it wasn’t enough so we decided to stop him and start another treatment and we’ll see if he’s fine now.”

Newcastle have a balanced squad and have been able to deal with the absence of the Spaniard. However, his experience could prove to be vital as the season progresses. It is the right back position that he prefers to play and after the sale of Daryl Janmaat, there is a possibility for him to emerge as the first choice on that side of the defence.

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