Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez has brushed aside claims he is fuelling the negativity surrounding the club.
The 57-year-old Spaniard has made no secret of his dissatisfaction with the Magpies’ rebuilding work to date this summer, and back-to-back Premier League defeats by Tottenham and Huddersfield have simply added to the gloom hanging over St James’ Park which saw owner Mike Ashley’s PR adviser Keith Bishop pay a visit to the training ground on Tuesday.
Pundits Jamie Carragher and Joey Barton have both suggested Benitez himself is responsible for at least some of that, with Carragher questioning his former manager’s role in Newcastle’s current plight:
“Rafa Benitez is a God really to Newcastle fans,” he said earlier in the week. “They’re writing books about him, the way he brought them up, he’s integrated himself into the city with his work.
“But his negativity, I think, is rubbing off on the whole club. The supporters, all they’re chanting for is Rafa Benitez, there’s no players, so you can see how they feel about him but there’s got to be more of an upbeat mood.
“What he’s basically saying is the players he’s got aren’t good enough but 80-90 per cent of that squad, those are who you are going to need to keep you up.
“You need to somehow lift them as well, it’s far too negative and it has to change.”
Benitez insists a return to winning ways – Nottingham Forest are due on Tyneside for a Carabao Cup second round tie on Wednesday night – would solve many of the current issues.
He said: “If we win, I will be happy. The main difference is what the players do on the pitch.
“It’s because we didn’t win, that’s it. If you win, everyone is happy. If you lose, everyone is not happy. When you lose, you have to be upset. Hopefully we can change that tomorrow.”
Asked specifically about Barton’s assertion that he should stop moaning and start coaching, Benitez said: “I am concentrating on my job.”
Newcastle, of course, is a club which has too often found itself in the headlines for the wrong reasons, and Ashley’s admission that they cannot afford to give Benitez the money he would like for transfers has led to predictions that it will all eventually end in tears once again.
However, the former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss firmly believes that whatever happens during what is left of the transfer window, he will be in a better position on September 1 than he is now.
He said: “September 1 will change everything, simple. If you have your team, your squad, it will be easier for me to get a message across. It will be closed and okay, fine, we have to go.”
Asked if he is confident that he can keep the club in the top flight, Benitez replied: “Yes. It is something we have done well for years and working hard, we have the feeling that we will improve.”