Georginio Wijnaldum feels Newcastle United CAN return to the Premier League at the first attempt – if Rafa Benitez stays.
The club hopes to confirm that Benitez will take charge in the Championship in the next 48 hours.
Even after we were relegated, the stadium was still full. I think this is a club that has to play for the first six, seven or eight places (in the Premier League).Gini Wijnaldum
Benitez – who could walk away from the club this summer in the wake of relegation – is set to sign a revised contract after holding talks with owner Mike Ashley and managing director Lee Charnley.
The 56-year-old – who will be given full control of transfers – is already planning ahead for next season.
And Wijnaldum is hopeful that United can return to the Premier League at the first attempt under the guidance of Benitez.
“Everything is possible,” said Wijnaldum, who ended the season as the club’s top scorer with 11 goals.
“You see that Leicester are champions of the league, and who expected that in the beginning. Everything can happen.”
Benitez has talked about the “potential” of Newcastle.
And former PSV Eindhoven captain Wijnaldum – who will let United decide his future – feels the club should be competing in the upper reaches of the Premier League given its fanbase.
“You see the stadium and the fans,” said Wijnaldum, signed last summer for £14.5million.
“Even after we were relegated, the stadium was still full. I think this is a club that has to play for the first six, seven or eight places (in the Premier League).
“This was way below the standard that the club must have.”
Newcastle were unbeaten in the final six games of the season, but Benitez’s appointment came too late to keep the club in the top flight after a dismal seven months under Steve McClaren.
United fans appealed for Benitez to stay during the season-ending 5-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur at St James’s Park. And Wijnaldum says he understands the mood on Tyneside.
“In my opinion, we learnt too late from the things that happened before,” said the Holland international.
“That is why in the last couple of games we did better than before. He made a big impact on the team and made us perform better.
“I think let us perform well. We had good results. He didn’t let us lose six times in a row. It’s been better, and I think that’s a normal reaction from the crowd.”