DeAndre Yedlin: Newcastle fans didn't turn on us '“ and their faith has been rewarded
It's the little things. Rafa Benitez has always been known for his attention to detail.
The small details have made a big difference since Newcastle United last faced tomorrow’s opponents Watford.
In his first training session at the club just over two years ago, Benitez, literally, walked each player through where he expected them to be and what he expected them to do.
Week after week, the adjustments have continued.
Benitez’s side were beaten 3-0 by Watford at St James’s Park late last year.
The defeat came in a run of one win in nine Premier League games.
Benitez didn’t panic. Nor did his players. And neither did the club’s fans.
There have been individual and collective improvements. Yedlin, for one, has improved, especially defensive, under the guidance of Benitez.
And today, the club is 10th in the league – and safe from relegation – with three games left to play.
“If you’d have asked a lot of people before Christmas if we’d have been safe with a month to go, they would’ve said you were crazy,” said DeAndre Yedlin, speaking at a Tesco Bank Junior Players community event at a North Tyneside school this week.
“Obviously, to be in this position ... you have to give credit to the players, credit to the staff and also credit to the fans for not turning on us. They stuck by us. They were positive and kept us going. Ultimately, it’s paid off.
“We’ve achieved our goal of 40 points, but we want to keep pushing harder now. We don’t want to end a good season on a sour note. We want to get points from these next games.”
So what has changed since Benitez’s side were convincingly beaten by Watford, then managed by Marco Silva, in November.
“When you get to this level, it’s not massive things,” said Yedlin, signed from Tottenham Hotspur two years ago.
“It’s little tiny differences that we’ve made in our game that have allowed us to start getting results, getting points on the board and, ultimately, getting to this place in the table.”
United have lost twice since securing their top-flight status. Asked about the mood behind the scenes ahead of the Watford game, USA international Yedlin said: “I don’t want to say disappointed, because we’ve needed to be positive all year.
“But I think we’re ready. Obviously, if we win this game, there’s a good chance we finish at least 10th. It would be a great finish for us. Everybody’s ready, everybody’s prepared.
“Obviously, sometimes you need that little extra motivation. Now it’s really clear. If we can get some points in the last games, we’ll get a top-10 finish, which would be a great finish for our first season back in the Premier League.”
Yedlin took part in a coaching session with pupils at Ivy Road Primary School, Forest Hall, this week.
“I was interacting with them and having a good time,” said 24-year-old Yedlin. “They were showing me some of the things they learned.
“It’s very important (to get out into the community). I remember from when I was young and an athlete would come to the school and all the kids would be ‘wow’, so I just to put myself in their shoes and maybe this can inspire them to go on and pursue their dreams.”
l Tesco Bank Junior Players is a flagship community coaching programme jointly led by the Newcastle United Community Foundation, Foundation of Light and Newcastle Eagles Community Foundation. The initiative gives schoolchildren the opportunity to get fit by taking part in physical activity and receiving expert tuition from highly-qualified coaches.