Rafa Benitez has finally got to the bottom of Newcastle United’s injury plight, according to analyst Ben Dinnery.
At present, United are suffering a bit of a mini-crisis with Ciaran Clark, DeAndre Yedlin, Grant Hanley and Daryl Murphy all nursing problems ahead of the visit of Wigan Athletic to St James’s Park tomorrow.
Newcastle’s injury record has improved dramatically. I think that is down to the manager
But Dinnery, who runs www.premierinjuries.com, believes the Spaniard has ended the Magpies’ reign as one of the worst clubs in the country when it comes to players missing games with ‘preventable’ problems.
In the summer Benitez convinced Head of sports medicine and science Dr Paul Catterson to remain at the club, just as he seemed poised to return to NHS work.
And along with that he was allowed to appoint two new members of staff to bolster the Magpies’ medical ranks.
Cristian Fernandez Martinez came in from Hull City as rehabilitation fitness coach, so too did former Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United injury consultant Daniel Marti, who was appointed first team physiotherapist.
Dinnery is not certain whether these moves have been the main factor, but he is sure that Benitez’s approach when it comes to managing players with injuries has seen a sharp decrease in the amount of injuries suffered at United.
“Newcastle’s injury record has improved dramatically,” said Dinnery.
“Although, even though they’re out of the Premier League, if you look at the stats they still have one of the worst records at that level for days missed.
“I think a lot of that is down to the manager - he sees the bigger picture where some other managers do not.”
Some injuries are unavoidable - knee problems, fractures, etc, are just part and parcel of a contact sport. What can be prevented, though, are soft tissue injuries. And that is the type of injury that managers and clubs are often judged on.
“There are two type of football injuries,” explains Dinnery.
“The type that are unavoidable - like contact injuries, which are just what happen when you play football. Then there are the others, like the soft tissue and muscle injuries.
“The main problem with soft tissue injuries is that when players have previous their chances of a re-occurrence is heightened.
“It can be a vicious circle for players. Just look at Vincent Kompany. His body is breaking down because he has missed so much football and training, then tries to come back and other things go wrong.”
One of the biggest issues United have had since the turn of the year has been with Dwight Gayle.
The hitman has had to sit out more than a month of football in 2017 with a hamstring problem. Since then Benitez has had to treat the former Crystal Palace striker with kid gloves.
“Back in 2015/16 he had a tough time,” said Dinnery.
“He suffered three separate hamstring injuries in the space on a few months.
“The first injury occurred in November 2015 then he played three separate comebacks games into 2016 and had a setback or re-occurrence. This season his history has not been at all bad.
“He had a gluteus strain but apart from that he has been relatively injury free this campaign.”
It’s fair to say 21-goal Gayle has been a pain in the backside for many a defender this season!