Rafa Benitez demands ‘commitment, passion and character’ from his Newcastle flops after Southampton debacle

Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez.

Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez.

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Rafa Benitez is ready to swing the axe at Newcastle United after demanding more “commitment, passion and character” from his team.

Benitez’s relegation-threatened side was convincingly beaten 3-1 by Southampton on Saturday.

The club remains second-bottom of the Premier League and six points adrift of safety.

Swansea City visit St James’s Park on Saturday for the first of Newcastle’s four remaining home games.

And United manager Benitez, knowing his team simply must take all three points, is considering changing a “lot of things” for the fixture, having been angered by his team’s error-riddled first-half performance against Southampton.

“We have relief because the way we reacted in the second half gives us the belief that we can win,” said Benitez.

“We can win games, and if we start winning it will be different because we don’t need to be the best team in the Premier League, but we have to be the best team in the bottom four.

“We are not doing that at the moment, so I think that we need to start winning against Swansea and change a lot of things ... change the commitment, the passion, the character and the way that we play.

“The fans will be crucial for us, because we need them pushing the players, supporting the players.

“And at the end of the season we will have time to analyse what is going on.

“But now is the time to stick together and do our best because it’s the only way.”

Few players emerged from the Southampton game with any credit, and only two – Jamaal Lascelles and Georginio Wijnaldum – were prepared to speak about the game.

Lascelles claimed United needed more “heart and desire” on the pitch.

Asked if “character and commitment” should the bare minimum for his players, Benitez said: “When you are at the bottom of the table and making mistakes, it is more difficult when you know that you have an idea, a gameplan, how to attack them and how to defend after.

“But then as soon as you concede, you start questioning what you are doing on the pitch – whether you have to do this or do that – and then you concede another goal.

“So I think it’s very difficult when you are in this situation to accept that something is wrong.

“But still you have to keep on pushing because the players, some of them, they are young players and they need help in terms of making the right decisions.

“So you have to give them this help in training, and maybe the senior players, the players with more experience, they can help.

“But it’s something that we have to change quickly.”