Transfers, budgets & backing - What Rafa Benitez said about Newcastle United's summer
Rafa Benitez admits his Newcastle United squad are ready to come out fighting ahead of the Premier League season opener.
The Spaniard did his best to hide his disappointment after the closure of the summer transfer window, in which he was yet again failed to be backed by owner Mike Ashley and the United hierarchy.
But with a message of unity ahead of his side's Tottenham Hotspur test tomorrow, the manager is keen to see his players replicate the commitment and battle of last season, to ensure top flight safety on Tyneside yet again.
"We are ready. I am a fighter so I like to fight. Hopefully, we will do as well as we did last year," he said.
"Even doing everything right or not, we have to fight. The main thing for me now and what I have to do is make sure I bring the best from our players.
"The way to do that is to focus on football. We have finished the transfer window and we have to focus on Tottenham because it will be a difficult game."
Reflecting back on the window that was, Benitez played a straight bat to questions about disappointments, budgets and a lack of backing.
"I am really calm now because we have finished," he said.
"It is the time where you have to do exactly as we did last year. The fans behind the team, all together, the work rate and commitment.
"During the summer you have to try to improve your squad as much as possible, as soon as you are finished, you have to concentrate on football.
"The fans will think, ‘Rafa will be upset’ or this or that. But this is not the time for that. We finished tenth last year. We have added some players, players we needed, and I think that is good and positive, could it be better? You can always improve and be better. But I am pleased with the players that are here."
Seven players came through the door at United this summer, with a whole host of others leaving via the exit door.
Are the Magpies stronger than they were in May, or before they headed into the 2017/18 campaign? Benitez seems to think so.
"I think we are in a better place," he said.
"To get a player like (Federico) Fernandez at the end was a step in the right direction, we had to do something for the team and we did it.
"With the team we have, we can compete because we did well last season and I trust these players. We need the fans behind the team to do it every single game."
On the Magpies' aims for the season, Benitez admits he has to be realistic.
He said: "I will be realistic and say to stay up. We did really well last year with the way we were playing and working. You have to be more ambitious, but it is football and our idea is one game at a time. We did that last year and achieved tenth position and did well last year. Hopefully, we will be able to do the same.
"When I sat down as a manager of Liverpool, everyone was expecting us to say we were going to win the league, but you couldn’t say this because other teams were spending more. The reality is that if we did what we did last year in terms of attitude and commitment then we can be higher than 17th positon, how high? Could be tenth, eighth of 15th, I don’t know. We will see."
And the question on everyone's lips is whether he will hold yet more talks about his future.
When quizzed on the subject, Benitez said: "The time to talk about that was before. Now we have finished the transfer window. I am really pleased here.
"I would like to see the team at the top so I will be doing my best every day.
"If we have to talk about a possible extension, we will talk, but now is not the time."