Jermain Defoe is not concerned about the timing of Rafael Benitez’s appointment and says the pressure in Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby will all be on the hosts.
Benitez took over from Steve McClaren last Friday as 19th-placed Newcastle seek to save themselves from relegation.
Local rivals and fellow candidates for the drop Sunderland go to St James’ Park on Sunday for a crucial derby clash, and some believe Benitez’s appointment could inspire their hosts to pick up the points they need to avoid the drop.
But Defoe is not concerned by the former Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid manager’s arrival in the North East, and points to the Spaniard’s lack of experience at the foot of the table.
“He is a top manager, but a manager that has never really been in this sort of situation before,” said the Sunderland forward.
“He’s been at some of the best clubs in the world, and he is an experienced manager.
“But it’s not a worry to be honest. It doesn’t matter who the manager is.
“I certainly won’t be going into the game thinking about Rafa Benitez being the manager, because there is only so much that a manager can do.
“You can pick the team and you do the team shape and tell the players how you want them to play, but then it is the players who have to go out and play.
“We just have to make sure that whatever we do at the weekend is better than them – whether you are a defender, midfielder, or a forward.
“In terms of running, tackling, quality in front of goal, we have to be better than them to win the game.”
Defoe acknowledges Benitez may have already had a positive effect on the Newcastle squad, but the striker says he is focused on his own game.
He said: “I watched the [Leicester v Newcastle] game the other night and I thought they looked really solid to be honest.
“Leicester didn’t really look like scoring, so you can see the work he has done already.
“But it’s important we concentrate on ourselves and it should be a good game. I’m looking forward to it.
“It’s a game that we have to win, but if we can’t win it we have to take a point.”
Sunderland are currently one place above the drop zone, ahead of Newcastle by one point, with only goal-difference separating the Wearsiders and Norwich.
With the one-point cushion, Defoe believes the onus will be on Newcastle to win the derby.
“I think they are the ones under pressure, to be honest,” he said.
“I think we can go there and relax and be organised.
“The atmosphere is going to be electric and they will have a point to prove, because the players will want to show the new manager that they should be in the team.
“They are going to up for it, but we will be ready.”