Rafael Benitez is hoping to turn his honeymoon period on Tyneside into a full-blown love affair with Newcastle.
The 56-year-old Spaniard stood at St James’ Park on Tuesday night and was serenaded by the home fans during his side’s 1-1 Barclays Premier League draw with Manchester City, a result which on top of a 3-0 win over Swansea three days earlier, has rekindled hope of a great escape.
Benitez was drafted in by the Magpies last month and handed a 10-game rescue mission with a break clause included in his three-year contract should he fail to drag the club back from the brink of relegation.
However, as he prepares to take Newcastle to former club Liverpool – where he is still revered by many – on Saturday, he is hoping to extend his stay and forge a similar relationship with the fans.
Benitez said: “I see the similarities between the cities and the fans. It’s a city of workers, the fans support the team, they have passion, so they are very similar. That is good for me.
“I’ve been in Spain, I’ve been in Italy, but the experience of Liverpool was fantastic because the fans are behind you no matter what you do.
“At the moment the fans here, we are in honeymoon, everything is fine and I am really pleased. Hopefully it can be the same for some years.”
Benitez will return to Anfield – where the Magpies have not won in 20 league visits dating back to April 1994 – with his current club two points from safety, but with much of the talk surrounding Champions League-winning goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek’s claims in his autobiography that the Spaniard was “cold”, with the Pole admitting he wanted to punch him after losing his place to Pepe Reina.
However, the former Reds boss said: “People say I am cold. To be fair, I am professional. I have a responsibility to make decisions and you have to decide about things, you have to think, you have to find the right balance.
“To stay at a club where the fans love you is really important to me, but at the same time, I have to win so I have to find the right balance.
“So far, I am really pleased here. I want us to do well, I want this club to be successful.”