Rafa Benitez says he’s “proud” to be talked of in the same breath as Sir Bobby Robson by Newcastle United fans.
The late, great Sir Bobby Robson will be remembered today when Newcastle host Ipswich Town, another of his former clubs, at St James’s Park (3pm kick-off).
Sir Bobby took United into the Champions League in 2002, while the club, under Keegan, came close to winning the Premier League in the mid-1990s.
The impact Benitez has had at Championship leaders Newcastle, on and off the pitch, in a short space of time has seen him likened, by some fans, to Robson and Keegan.
Fans are starting to dream again, while the team has been transformed.
While Benitez – who has managed some of Europe’s biggest clubs in his long coaching career – is flattered to be compared to them, he feels he is still “far away” from them in terms of what he has done for the Magpies.
“I hear the fans and read when they talk about me and they compare me with Sir Bobby Robson or Kevin Keegan,” said Benitez.
“I am really pleased about that. I have my CV, but when they put you at the level of people who have been so important to this club, and in football, it is always good, always positive.
“You have to be proud of that, but I am still at the beginning.
“My career is fine, because I am old, but, in terms of Newcastle, the city, and what Sir Bobby meant to the club, that is still far away.”
Meanwhile, United are looking to cement their place at the top of the Championship with a third successive win today.
Newcastle climbed above Norwich City on Tuesday night after beating Barnsley 2-0 at Oakwell.
However, Benitez has again insisted that it is too early to be looking at the table.
“I was not worried about the table before (Barnsley), and I am not worried now,” he said.
“The main thing for me is that everyone has the right mentality, like they have in the other games. That’s it. Three points.
“I think for us to play at home is always the same.
“We have a lot of fans, and it’s massive stadium, so it’s more or less the same pressure.
“They don’t need to feel anything different. They just have to enjoy it and try to do well.
“It’s not a different challenge now. From the beginning, a lot of people were saying Newcastle would be at the top, they would go up. Every game is the same for us.
“Away or at home, the fans are cheering the team.
“The other teams always put in extra effort to try to beat us. We are top of the table, and we have to keep going.”