Miles Starforth’s pre-season tour diary: Rafa Benitez is ‘worried’ about Newcastle – but is Mike Ashley concerned?

It was a long time before Rafa Benitez walked into the auditorium for his post-match press conference.

But there was nothing especially unusual in that. It happens from time to time.

Rafa Benitez.

Rafa Benitez.

Newcastle United’s manager is normally punctual and prompt.

Benitez had spoken to his players in the dressing room after Wednesday night’s 4-0 defeat to Braga before doing a TV interview pitchside.

It was long after the final whistle when he finally took his seat in front of the assembled journalists and cameras.

I’m not sure what I was expecting.

Miles Away From Home.

Miles Away From Home.

But I certainly wasn’t expecting what followed from Benitez. It was extraordinary.

Benitez, calm and composed throughout, delivered a series of clipped answers to questions about the club’s efforts in the transfer market.

The 58-year-old admitted he was “really worried” ahead of the new season and said he “didn’t know” if the club had any money to spend or would sign any more players before next week’s transfer deadline.

Benitez also said fans were right to be “concerned” at what was going on at St James’s Park.

Having made his point, he got up and left.

The players, meanwhile, refused to speak as they left the Estadio Municipal de Braga.

They are understood to be in dispute with the club, for the second pre-season running, over their bonuses for the coming campaign.

Will Benitez’s comments make a difference?

If owner Mike Ashley hasn’t been willing to listen to Benitez up to now, then surely the odds of a change in policy this late in the transfer window is very unlikely.

But Benitez felt he had to say something – and he did. And Newcastle fans are under no illusions about the challenge Benitez and the team is likely to face over the coming nine months.