Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez has gagged himself ahead of a potentially pivotal January transfer window – but has insisted Jonjo Shelvey is not up for grabs.
Benitez will send out his side at Watford on Saturday having caused something of a stir last weekend with his claim that it would be “a miracle” if the Magpies retained their Premier League status this season.
That was interpreted as a shot across the bows of owner Mike Ashley ahead of January, with the manager still bemoaning the club’s summer transfer dealings, which he believes left them at a disadvantage in the battle for survival, with their rivals having invested heavily.
However, he was maintaining a silence over transfers at his pre-match press conference on Friday afternoon and insisted it was his decision.
Benitez said: “I don’t want to talk about that. If I don’t talk about it, then you won’t need to analyse every single word I say.”
Asked if he was under orders from managing director Lee Charnley to say nothing, he replied: “I was talking to Lee yesterday and talking about the transfer window.
“I prefer not to talk too much, that is it, it is my decision.”
Benitez did say enough, however, to rule out letting Shelvey leave next month amid speculation that Fulham are ready to offer skipper Tom Cairney, a long-term Magpies target, for him in a swap deal.
The Spaniard, who did confirm that goalkeeper Rob Elliot will be made available, said: “No. No chance. He’s an important player for us.
“Ki [Sung-yueng] and him are the players who technically can pass the ball well and keep it, they give confidence to the rest of the team. I hope he will be as important as he was last year.”
In the meantime, Benitez will concentrate on the task of bouncing back from a 4-0 Boxing Day defeat at Liverpool when he sends out his team at Vicarage Road, with Shelvey available after a five-game absence with a thigh injury.
Reflecting upon a bad day at Anfield and looking to what lies ahead, the manager said: “We have to be really concentrated and focused on every single game. We cannot make mistakes.
“If we make mistakes we can lose against anyone and, against the top sides, it makes it even easier to lose.
“Do I have confidence we can do it? Yes. But if we do, it will be because everything is right.”