Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez taking Championship one game at a time

Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez.
Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez.

Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez has banned talk of points totals and promotion from the St James’ Park dressing-room, writes Liam Kennedy.

Instead, the Spaniard says the players have their firmly on the task ahead – making sure they keep their run of eight wins on the bounce going at Elland Road on Sunday.

United face a potentially tricky trip to in-form Leeds United next weekend.

A sell-out and the Sky cameras add to the pressure of the encounter.

And while some Magpies’ fans thoughts have began to wander to promotion title winning parties, a better points tally than 2009-10 and even beating Reading’s 106 point Football League record, Benitez’s will not allow his players lose focus.

When asked whether he thought United could break the Royals’ Championship record, Benitez, whose side are three points clear at the top of the second tier, said: “No I am sure it will be very, very difficult.

“You know our idea is to approach it one game at a time.

“Every game coming up is the most important one. That is it.”

While some have criticised the level of competition Newcastle have faced this season since relegation, Benitez has been impressed by the quality in the Championship.

“It is good,” said the United boss.

“Everybody thinks it is long ball, second ball football.

“This is not the way it is.

“It is quite interesting for a manager because you have to adapt to a number of styles of football.”

Newcastle lost the first two games of the season - to Fulham and Huddersfield - but have since gone to take the division by storm, wracking up 12 wins in the 14 fixtures since.

Benitez admits it took his players a little bit of time to adapt to life at this level.

He said: “We have to understand the style of the Championship.

“When we play at home you want to play fluid football with the ball on the floor. Away you have to defend high balls and set pieces.

“The team is learning it is growing, because the results are good.

“At the beginning it was not nice. We felt we could do better.

“We did not deserve to lose both games but we had to manage it.

“We had to keep sending the same message to the players and eventually things improved.”

Meanwhile, the manager has admitted that he believes top-scorer Dwight Gayle could be a future England international.

The striker, who was a big money buy from Crystal Palace in the summer, has netted 11 goals this campaign to date.

But more than that, Benitez is seeing little improvements in the players game.

And the gaffer says his hard work both on and off the pitch will stand him in good stead for the future.

It might even get him international recognition.

When asked about the 26-year-old’s England chances, Benitez said: “Yeah. I think he is an interesting player.

“He has a lot of good things.

“As a striker you have to score. He is doing that.

“He works hard in training to improve. I can see him getting better.”