Rafa Benitez had a smile on his face when he faced the media.
However, Newcastle United’s manager hadn’t been smiling when he spoke to journalists on Wednesday night.
I think we are in a fantastic position. Imagine at the beginning of the season and someone said ‘listen, you will be second, one point behind the leader (Brighton and Hove Albion’.Rafa Benitez
Benitez was disappointed.
And he didn’t hide his disappointment.
Disappointed with his team’s 2-2 draw against Queens Park Rangers.
And disappointed with the club’s failure to sign anyone in last month’s transfer window.
Benitez, having made his displeasure known, moved on yesterday when he addressed reporters at the club’s Benton training ground.
He doesn’t want any negativity between now and the end of the season.
United’s manager, whatever his private frustrations, was looking to the positives at when he spoke in public at his pre-match Press conference.
“I think we are in a fantastic position,” said Benitez, whose side take on Derby County at St James’s Park this afternoon.
“Imagine at the beginning of the season and someone said ‘listen, you will be second, one point behind the leader (Brighton and Hove Albion). You would say ‘yes’. So the team, as a team, is in a great position.
“We could be better, but we could also be worse. You can see other teams that have been relegated, and it is quite difficult, so we have to realise that we are doing well.
“We were doing really, really well, and now we have to be strong enough mentally to approach the rest of the season.
“And if you have some bad games, you still have to keep going because as I have said ... seven games (in April).
“Why do you have to be worried now when we are second, so we have to keep going and be strong, especially at the end.
“My feeling is that, after deciding to stay, we have done a lot of good things.
“We have made mistakes, like everyone else, but a lot of good things.
“We have to try to continue doing this and then, in the end, if we do make less mistakes than the others, we have to be there.”
Benitez and managing director Lee Charnley had drawn up a list of targets long before the January window.
The pair had been hopeful of making an early breakthrough, but the intervention of owner Mike Ashley changed everything.
Ashley, having given the best manager in the league the best squad in the league last summer, didn’t want any more money spent in the window.
Benitez wasn’t backed in the transfer market by Ashley. But he retains the full backing of supporters.
Fans, at least in part, persuaded Benitez to stay in the wake of relegation with a show of support on the final day of last season. A repeat is planned for the Derby game.
Unity is strength for Benitez.
“We have seen our fans making the difference,” he said. “Now is the time everyone has to realise that is the only way and the best way to do things. It is what I think, not what I have to say.
“I was not happy (when the transfer window closed), but we cannot change anything now. The players that we have now, they will give everything.
“The fans need to be supporting the players and if a player makes a mistake, be sure that we support him.
“Everybody has to be behind the team, and then we have more chances to get promoted.”
Benitez added: “Now it is more simple.
“What we have to do now is get three points in every game. We do not have to be worried about transfer windows, or anything, except to be sure that the players are training well, that they are fit, that we have the gameplan for every game, and making the right changes or substitutions.
“That is it. We do not have to waste energy on the other things. I know exactly where we are now.”