Truce with Ashley as Rafa Benitez looks to focus on improving Newcastle

Rafa Benitez
Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez says he’s no longer interested in fighting Mike Ashley over transfers – as his focus now is taking on Newcastle United’s opponents.

Boss Benitez had hoped for a flurry of late transfer window arrivals, but the club didn’t sign a single player on deadline day.

However, Benitez moved to draw a line under the summer ahead of today’s Premier League home game against Stoke.

Newcastle are looking to record a third successive top-flight victory for the first time since November 2014.

And Benitez, for the moment, is determined to improve his team individually and collectively.

“I am very pragmatic,” said Benitez, who will be back in the dugout after recovering from the operation which led to him missing last weekend’s 1-0 win over Swansea City.

“There’s a time to fight, and I was fighting to improve my team in the way I think we have to improve. Now it’s a time to help my team and improve my players. I must improve every single player.

“I’ve had a couple of conversations with them this week who were out of the group before who were out of favour but now are here.

“I said ‘look, I was clear before for these reasons, and it’s clear now that I will try to improve you to be sure that if you can play, you will play.

“You have to be sure that if you work hard then you will have your chances’.

“The message is very clear. Before (the transfer deadline), I wanted to improve and I wanted to do things in what I thought was the right way. Now, it’s just to be sure that this group of players, they will be better.”

While Newcastle’s revamped scouting department is already scouting players ahead of January’s transfer window, Benitez is reluctant to look beyond the club’s next game.

The 57-year-old said: “At the moment, I’m just making plans for Stoke. That’s it.

“Last week, I was not making too many plans, obviously. The idea now is to be sure that we treat this like we do all the others as a very important game.

“We know we will have even more confidence if we do well against Stoke. Our schedule now is that we just play one game a week, so that gives us more time to prepare, with more training sessions to improve the team.”

“What we’ve done is to change the scouting department so what we have in place now is the people who can communicate with each other and start working on our future.

“It’s not that we’re not doing anything, everybody is doing their job now.”