Clinch promotion and then we can focus on key summer issues, says Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez

Vurnon Anita
Vurnon Anita

Rafa Benitez has put summer planning on hold until Newcastle United complete their promotion job.

The Magpies head into the final few weeks of the campaign in a healthy position, despite last weekend’s surprise loss at Sheffield Wednesday.

A point behind current leaders Brighton but just six points off the magic mark of 90, and more importantly 10 points clear of third-placed Huddersfield, with the Terriers having just six games to make up the deficit.

With that in mind, promotion back to the Premier League is all but secured, barring a disaster, but that does not mean Benitez is already making plans.

Instead the manager is preferring to stay fully focused on the job at hand – making sure United are a top-flight team come May 7.

And, as a result, all talk of contracts, with a number of first-teamers deals up, including Yoan Gouffran and Vurnon Anita, summer signing targets and pre-season plans have been put on temporary hold.

“How many managers at this stage of the season would be preparing for the next season five years ago? Maybe 80%,” explained the Spaniard.

“How many managers now? Probably 50%. Football has changed so much.

“It is important to keep doing your job.

“You have to keep doing your job for the future, but you must concentrate on this game, this week.

“Why? Because if you start thinking too much about the future you lose your focus.

“We have to go out. We have win then we have plenty of time to prepare for the future.

“We have to do the right things.”

The Championship campaign, while positive in the main, has not exactly been plain sailing for United and Benitez – last Saturday’s Owls loss was a case in point.

This season has been a learning curve for the manager.

“Everything is different – tactics, PR, man management, everything. Tactics obviously have to be different,” he said.

“I have not had a situation like this for years with so many games.

“We are up against direct teams, passing teams, three at the back, five at the back, Eight at the back! I have had to adapt to different tactics. Every week, twice a week, you have to adapt and change.

“And you do not have a lot of time to prepare the way you really want. Ideally, you want one week, but that is impossible now.

“I have not really changed the way I work. It is similar. The difference is it is more squeezed with so many games.”