Newcastle: Maradona questions Benitez; Yedlin raves about team-mate; McClaren talks Newcastle
An interesting story to emerge over the last 24 hours comes from Argentina as Diego Maradona has been talking about Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez. The legend of football has questioned why Newcastle offered the job to the Spaniard after his failure at Real Madrid. He told Marca:
“If Benitez, whom I respect very much, was bad in Madrid, let him tell me it was for a lack of players!
“No, he failed. But after a while, after failing there, they gave him three years in Newcastle.
“Can someone explain it to me? Is that normal or does something go wrong?”
This is a remarkably weird story considering that Maradona has no links to either Benitez or Newcastle United. It is short-sighted to call the Spaniard’s short reign at Real Madrid a failure, as the board at the Bernabeu make it extremely difficult for any manager to be a success. Also Benitez is a well-respected manager who has done a huge amount in the game and it was a coup for Newcastle to land him. These comments are bizarre and show a man who is trying anything to stay in the headlines of the sport.
The impact that the manager has had at the club is obvious and new signing DeAndre Yedlin has been lauding Benitez in the media. The right back has had a great start in a black and white shirt since joining from Tottenham. He is enjoying playing under Benitez, while he has also said that he is developing a real connection with Matt Ritchie. The US international has enjoyed playing behind Ritchie and the two could emerge as the first choice pair down the right hand side this season.
“He’s a great player to play with, he’s always going to give 100 per cent.
“Even if you make a mistake, he’s right there behind you, which is huge.
“As long as you’ve got their back, and they’ve got yours – I think it’s a hard connection to stop.”
These are positive comments and show the importance of Ritchie to the side. His work rate and defensive contribution mark him as one of Benitez’s most trusted lieutenants. Vurnon Anita and DeAndre Yedlin have a much easier task when they are playing behind Ritchie, because the Scottish international is always protecting them. Meanwhile, his intelligence in the final third means that he rarely wastes possession and it isn’t surprising that an attacking right back like Yedlin is enjoying playing alongside Ritchie.
Finally, former manager Steve McClaren has returned to Derby as manager this week and he has blamed speculation over the Newcastle job for how his previous spell in charge ended. The 55-year-old will be returning to St James’ Park later this year and it is safe to say that he won’t get a good reaction from the Newcastle fans, as many blame him for the club’s relegation.
“I am a very, very lucky person. I feel very lucky – very honoured – to be given the opportunity to come back.
“My mistake was not quashing that (the Newcastle speculation), not dampening that, and not committing. That is my fault and I apologise for that.”
It was an odd move from Derby as McClaren failed to get them promoted during his last tenure and didn’t show loyalty when Newcastle came calling. Since then, he has had a poor spell in charge at St James’ Park and he is correct in his summary that he is a lucky person. Although he did a poor job at Newcastle, his failure caused a root-and-branch reform, which led to the appointment of Rafa Benitez. The Magpies are now in a much stronger position due to the failure of McClaren.
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