Newcastle continued their recent good form with an impressive 2-0 victory away at Derby County, taking their winning stream to five matches in all competitions. During that run, they have tightened up their defence and are currently on a streak of 405 minutes without conceding a goal. They are beginning to live up to their billing as title favourites, but it is a long season ahead and the Magpies need to guard against complacency. They have the right man at the helm to lead their assault on promotion and he has been talking to the media ahead of Tuesday’s trip to QPR.
The London side have had a decent start to the season and are currently sitting in 7th position. They have changed approach since their last relegation from the Premier League and are now focusing on putting together a young, hungry and talented squad. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is their manager and they will be one of the many clubs pushing for a play-off spot. Benitez was complimentary about their opponents and knows his side are in for a tough game.
“(Tuesday) will be very difficult. We have seen them playing and it is hard to beat them. It will not be easy. They have pace, strong players and they can score from set-pieces. They are a good team.”
The Spaniard is experienced and he will recognise the importance of keeping the squad focused on the next match, rather than getting carried away with the plaudits coming their way. The Championship is an unforgiving division and if you aren’t on your game, you will get punished. QPR have had a decent start and will pose a threat. Newcastle struggled with set pieces at the start of the season, with Fulham scoring their winner through one. That is an area that Benitez will focus on before the game.
During the last two matches, Jonjo Shelvey has been a cut above and looks to be in the best form of his life. He is a player who should be playing in the Premier League, but the decision to stay at Newcastle after relegation could help him in the long run. Benitez is a world class coach and knows what is required to compete at the highest level. His input will be invaluable for the midfielder and we are already seeing the improvement in his game.
“He knows his strengths and his problems. He is working on that and learning. His first goal was massive for him.”
He looks confident and motivated, which hasn’t always been the case throughout his career. He is now 24 and it looks like he had finally found a home. Newcastle are a club on the up under Benitez and Shelvey will be a major part of his plans for the future. His ultimate aim will be to get back into the England setup. It is a tough ask, but if he continues to play at this level and helps Newcastle to promotion, he has every chance.
Finally, the Newcastle manager spoke about Alan Shearer’s new statue that was unveiled outside St James’ Park on Monday. The all-time leading Premier League goal-scorer is a legend of the club and deserves the recognition for his contributions to Newcastle United and football in general. It was a reminder of better times on Tyneside, but Benitez is hoping that it will motivate the players currently at the club:
“He deserves this statue. He is a Newcastle legend. Hopefully we will see one of our players scoring as many goals as him.”
The Newcastle supporters love Benitez, because he understands the club and these comments reflect that. Unlike past managers, the Spaniard has gone to great lengths to learn more about the club and that has struck a chord with supporters. Managers come out with similar comments about legends of their respective clubs all the time, but with Benitez, you get the feeling that his comments come from the heart and are not designed to score points with the fan-base.
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