Why Rafa Benitez is taking a close interest in Adam Armstrong and Newcastle’s other loanees

Adam Armstrong, on loan from Newcastle United, scores the winning goal for Barnsley against Rotherham United last month.
Adam Armstrong, on loan from Newcastle United, scores the winning goal for Barnsley against Rotherham United last month.
  • United have more than a dozen players out on loan
  • Benitez gets weekly reports on their progress
  • Armstrong has scored five league goals for Barnsley
  • Benitez happy now Krul’s back between the posts

Out of sight, out of mind?

Not so, says Rafa Benitez.

The list of Newcastle United players out on loan runs into double figures.

Some of those players will never kick a ball again for United, while others are yet to play a competitive senior game for the club.

And the rest are somewhere in between.

Benitez, given regular reports on all the club’s loanees, follows them from a distance.

I don’t watch every game, because I don’t have time, but sometimes I am watching the games of our players on loan and then send messages and keep the contact with them.

Rafa Benitez

Newcastle’s manager also sends text messages to some of them.

“I follow the players on loan,” said Benitez, whose side lead the Championship ahead of Monday night’s home game against Aston Villa.

“I have people sending me the information. I am in contact with some of the players.

“I think it’s important to know if they are doing well or not.

“I don’t watch every game, because I don’t have time, but sometimes I am watching the games of our players on loan and then send messages and keep the contact with them.”

“I think it’s important for us, as a club, to have players doing well (on loan).”

One player who is doing well away from St James’s Park is Adam Armstrong, who took his goal tally for the season to five with a penalty for Barnsley in their 3-1 win over Villa at the weekend.

Benitez resisted the temptation to recall Armstrong to Newcastle at the turn of the year.

Instead, he extended the 20-year-old’s loan at Oakwell until the end of the season.

Benitez put Armstrong’s longer-term career development ahead of the club’s shorter-term need for another body on the training field during an injury and suspension-hit few weeks.

The Spaniard had a simple message for Armstrong before he set off for Barnsley last summer.

“The gaffer’s told me to come out here and get games – which I am,” said Armstrong. “That’s the main thing at my age.

“The aim for me this season is just to keep scoring as many goals as I can, play well, stay fit.”

Three of United’s other loanees have had a week of upheaval.

Freddie Woodman, Sean Longstaff and Callum Roberts joined Kilmarnock last month to play for Lee Clark.

Clark this week left Rugby Park to take charge of League One side Bury.

Lee McCulloch has been put in temporary charge of the Scottish Premiership club.

Midfielder Longtsaff, 19, has already made an impression at the club, having scored two goals in his first four games.

Woodman, Longstaff and Roberts just need to play, and they’ll be better for their six months north of the border.

Goalkeeper Tim Krul, on a half-season loan at AZ Alkmaar, also just needs to play.

Krul didn’t get a game at Ajax in the first half of the campaign after recovering from a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, so he made the short move to Alkmaar last month.

The 28-year-old, widely-regarded as one of the Premier League’s best goalkeepers during Newcastle’s six-year stay in the top flight, simply needs games to prove his fitness after 16 months without a competitive senior game.

“He needed to play,” said Benitez. “He was with the Under-21s (at Ajax), but that’s different. He’s a good keeper, so it he’s doing well, then it’s good for him and us.”

Krul came up against United’s Siem de Jong, on loan at PSV Eindhoven, on his debut. De Jong also has something to prove after two injury-hit seasons at St James’s Park.

Elsewhere, Emmanuel Riviere and Henri Saivet, on loan at Osasuna and Saint-Etienne respectively, do not have futures at Newcastle, but Benitez will be just as interested in how they are doing as their form will dictate their chances of earning permanent moves away from the club.