Rafa Benitez says he is happier than ever at Newcastle United – after strengthening his “connection” with the club’s fans.
Benitez – who has guided the club to the top of the Championship – went on a sightseeing tour of the region this week.
I’m really pleased because you can see the passion of the people and you feel also part of this connection with them, the club, the team, with everything. I’m really happy with these things.Rafa Benitez
Newcastle’s manager and his staff visited the Angel of the North in Gateshead, the city’s Castle Keep and Durham Cathedral.
Benitez was this week linked with the West Ham United job with Slaven Bilic under pressure after a poor start to the season.
However, the 56-year-old is fully committed to United.
And Benitez feels an even stronger affinity with the club, its fans and the North East after his tour of the region.
Asked if his connection with the club had been strengthened, Benitez said: “It is already stronger now, but I’m really pleased here. That is obvious.
“If you go and you see these things, you can see the passion of the fans.
“I’m really pleased because you can see the passion of the people and you feel also part of this connection with them, the club, the team, with everything. I’m really happy with these things.
“I had a big, big desire to do well here and everywhere, but obviously when you feel this passion from fans, it gives you even more.”
Benitez feels he understands the pride felt by supporters on Tyneside.
“I think it’s important to understand why the people are so proud of the city and the area,” said Benitez.
“If you go there and you see these things, then you understand why.
“If you go to a Cathedral, and they tell you it takes three or four hundred years to build a castle, it’s amazing, particularly with the technology they have before. You see the roles and everything.
“It is so difficult for us to understand that. We have to be proud of that.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle are looking to record a historic 10th successive win in all competitions against third-bottom Blackburn Rovers at St James’s Park this afternoon.
“In my experience, if you think too much about that then you can come unstuck,” said Benitez.
“So you have to concentrate on this game. It is a difficult game for us because obviously we have done well, but we have had some good players on the bench, so maybe we will have to change some players in some positions, and we know that the other team is getting better.
“It’s not that Blackburn are at the bottom and they are not doing anything. No, they are improving and we have seen some games and in the clips we have seen, they are playing well.
“It is a more difficult game for us, because everyone is expecting that we will win so they have nothing to lose.
“We have to make sure that that is not the case and we don’t approach the game with over-confidence.”