Rafa Benitez delivers powerful message to fans at Newcastle

  • Benitez spoke to fans at 125 Years United dinner
  • Foundation event recognised community heroes
  • Ameobi and Ferdinand inducted into Hall of Fame
  • Foundation unveiled plans for new home

Rafa Benitez says unity is strength at Newcastle United.

Benitez spoke to fans at this week’s 125 Years United dinner.

The star-studded event, staged by the Newcastle United Foundation, paid tribute to the achievements of unsung community heroes supported by the charity.

It also marked the club’s 125th birthday.

Benitez believes the bond between the club, its fanbase and the community are pivotal to a successful future – on and off the pitch.

Tuesday night’s dinner, attended by current and former players, followed a second successive 1-0 defeat for Benitez’s side, who are 11th in the Premier League.

Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez

And United’s manager’s called on supporters to stay behind his team, which is adjusting to life back in the top flight after a year in the Championship.

“When you have a massive city supporting the team, and you have a lot of fans supporting the team, these relations between fans and players and the club and staff is really important, not just for this kind of event – which is massive –but also for the future,” said Benitez.

“Because if you want to grow, you want to be stronger, you have to have a lot of people behind the team.

“When you are in a bad moment, you need the support of your fans.

When you are in a bad moment, you need the support of your fans. It’s really important to realise that 125 years is massive – it’s a massive club – but still we can improve.

Rafa Benitez

“It’s really important to realise that 125 years is massive – it’s a massive club – but still we can improve.

“We have to improve and the best way to do it is all together.”

Benitez and his staff studied the history of the club after arriving on Tyneside last year.

“When we came, we tried to get to know the culture of the city, the club and its history,” said Benitez.

Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez

“All of this gives you an idea of how big the club is.

“Here, it’s obvious that it’s a big city behind one club.

“Sometimes you have a couple of teams in the same city, but in this, case everyone has to support this team.

“I think it’s important to have the foundation and for us as a club to be supported it because the connection is important.”

Benitez presented the Alder Sweeney Award posthumously to Phil Eadon for his work with the club’s women’s team.

“It’s a great feeling to see everyone supporting the team,” said the 57-year-old.

“Always, I send the same message, especially now we have lost two games in a row. We have to stick together. If we want to be stronger, we have to stick together.”

Former players Shola Ameobi and Les Ferdinand were also inducted in the club’s Hall of Fame at the fundraising dinner, which was staged in a marquee on Exhibition Park.

Plans were unveiled at the event for a proposed new home for the foundation near St James’s Park.

Kate Bradley, head of the Foundation, said: “The 125 Years United Dinner event was an incredible evening, which raised thousands of pounds for Newcastle United Foundation.

“This will make a huge difference to our work, allowing us to coach, educate and mentor even more children, young people and families in deprived communities.

“We also revealed the vision for the next chapter in our remarkable story – to redevelop a community centre in the shadow of St James’s Park, which will be a state of the art hub for sport, education and well being.

“Our mission has not changed, but the resources we need to do this have.

“We hope fans and businesses alike will join us in building a 125 legacy.”