Newcastle United round-up: Benitez thanks supporters; Latest on Lascelles; Captain discusses training intensity

Newcastle United have been boosted by the return of Rafa Benitez to the club’s training ground this week. The manager missed last week’s trip to Swansea City as he was recovering from a hernia operation at home, but he is now back and fighting fit. The Chronicle report the following quotes from his press conference today:

“I feel like Usain Bolt now, I’m really fast again. But if you’d seen me last week! I would like to say thank you to everyone here, the staff, fans, players and the medical department – and everybody who sent messages. It was a special situation and everybody was showing sympathy and support.”

The manager seems to be in good spirits and it will be a huge plus to have him back on the touchline this weekend. Benitez is a coach that likes to walk his players through the game and offer tactical advice from the sidelines. That was most evident when he first arrived, but last week showed that the players can carry out their task without him being present and that shows how far they have come under the Spaniard’s guidance.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Newcastle were close to agreeing a new contract with Jamaal Lascelles and Rafa Benitez has confirmed that in his press conference. The Chronicle report these comments from the manager:

“We are working hard on that but I don’t think it will be difficult. Last year he was a very young captain and this year he’s still young. He did well for me. He tried to manage the responsibility of the group and helped people. This year I had another conversation with him and it was clear he was keen to continue being captain. He was keen to help people and lead by example.”

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This is great news for the club as Lascelles is young and already a key player for the first team. He is developing into a very good player under Benitez and if he continues to get better, he could become an England international in the future. There is no doubting his potential and it is pleasing that he will continue his career at St James’ Park.

The club captain has given an interview to BBC Sport and it will be featured on Football Focus this weekend. Lascelles talked about the competitiveness around the training ground and how that has helped the team lift their game after promotion.

“Sometimes it does get quite nasty. But not in a disrespectful way or a personal way. It will be because everybody wants to win.”

This emphasises the mood change that the club has underwent since Rafa Benitez took over. During their relegation campaign, a lot of the players didn’t care and looked uninterested on match-days. That is no longer the case as every player is giving their all for the shirt, even in training. That is a good sign heading into what will be a testing campaign.

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