Rafa Benitez surely knows that Newcastle are just one win away from the target he set before he would be sure of Premier League survival, thanks to Matt Ritchie’s last-minute thunderbolt at Bournemouth on Saturday.
But ever the professional and perfectionist, Benitez does not want the players to lose focus once that elusive win is achieved.
Speaking to the Newcastle Chronicle, Rafa said: “Every year, we have generally followed a similar pattern.“I would not always say ‘good results’ [in the second half of the season], because last year we lost four at the end, but we were already safe. We have normally had good performances from the team and, physically, the team is OK.
“We have to ensure we are solid, where we keep focus and we have balance. If we keep doing that, then we will have a chance. The fans have to believe that the players can do it [finish higher than last season].”
The Spanish tactician knows that much of the dip towards the end of last season was down to the sheer effort the players had put in to achieve a points tally that saw them stave off any relegation threat.
But he does not want the same thing to happen this year.
And he knows that things could have been a lot worse, with many of the planned protests being pushed aside with the rumours of a club takeover in the offing, and he singled out the bond between himself, the players and the fans.
“I think we are in a good moment now in terms of togetherness – the players, also in terms of the [team’s] relationship with fans, and the mood around the city. You have to keep winning to keep that because, in football, everything can change in one week.
“You win and you’re the best manager in the world, the next week you make two mistakes and everyone’s criticising you. We need to be consistent [by] creating chances and scoring goals.”
Of course, the feel good factor with the fans has remained in place, largely due to them wanting to send a message to Rafa, in a bid to get him to stay at the club.
The very fact that Benitez has to draw on similarities to last season, in many ways, epitomises the problem at the club.
Those lessons should have been learned, and a repeat of the battle to stave off relegation should not have even been an issue this year.
Yet here we are, 12 months on, and once again the final quarter of the season sees the manager, players and fans having to get their calculators out to try and find out just how many points they need.
They say it is rare for lightning to strike twice, but on Tyneside it has. Surely this time, if they are serious about wanting Rafa to stay, it cannot be allowed to happen for a third time next year.
What are your thoughts on the job that Rafa has done at Newcastle? Will he get the demands he is hoping for to sign a new deal? Join in the debate below…Like what the TT have on offer? Sign up for more notifications!
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