Rafa Benitez’s powerful messasge as Newcastle reconnect with the community

Sky Sports presenter Pete Graves joins Rafa Benitez in presenting Reggie Dornan with the Alder Sweeney Award

Sky Sports presenter Pete Graves joins Rafa Benitez in presenting Reggie Dornan with the Alder Sweeney Award

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Rafa Benitez feels Newcastle United is getting closer to the community – and that can only help the club on and off the pitch.

Benitez and a number of his players attended the Newcastle United Foundation’s awards dinner this week.

The event celebrated the club’s work in the community and also the achievements of those people it has helped in the region with its initiatives and projects.

Former United goalkeeper Steve Harper and the late Pavel Srnicek were also inducted in the Foundation’s Hall of Fame.

Benitez helped Liverpool forge closer links with the community on Merseyside during his time in charge at Anfield, and the Spaniard believes the “connection” between Newcastle and its fans is being strengthened after a difficult few years at St James’s Park.

“We have to support the great job the Foundation is doing at the moment,” said Benitez.

Rafa Benitez poses for a photograph with foundation award winners

Rafa Benitez poses for a photograph with foundation award winners

“I think it’s quite positive. You see the city, the club and the Foundation all working together. I said at the beginning that all together, we will be stronger.

“You know my experience at Liverpool. The connection between the club, the fans and the team is more or less the same. You can see that it is growing.

“I think it’s a very positive message for the future. It’s very positive to recognise that people are doing a great job.

“If we work together, and have a massive city behind the club, it can only help us. The Foundation is a key part of this.

You see the city, the club and the Foundation all working together. I said at the beginning that all together, we will be stronger.

Rafa Benitez

Benitez presented the Alder Sweeney Award, which was named in memory of Newcastle fans Liam Sweeney and John Alder who tragically lost their lives in the MH17 disaster in 2014 – to Foundation disability football development officer Reggie Dornan.

“Everybody enjoys these type of events,” said Benitez.

“People have been doing a great job and perhaps nobody knew, so to come and meet them and recognise they are doing a great job is brilliant.

“It has been wonderful celebrating the achievements of the award winners.

“The work the Foundation does is so important and I’m proud to support them.”

Benitez –whose side lead the Championship by three points – is now focused on Saturday’s home game against Cardiff City.

“I think we’re doing well and have to keep doing the same things,” he said.