`

Rafa Benitez has a sobering message for Newcastle fans after last season’s ‘miracle’

Rafa Benitez.
Rafa Benitez.

Rafa Benitez says it was a “miracle” that Newcastle United finished 10th last season.

Benitez guided the newly-promoted club to a top-half finish last season despite a lack of transfer funds.

You have been in the majority of the games, and you know, like me, that what we did last year was a miracle. To finish 10th was a miracle. That’s it.

Rafa Benitez

United’s manager, however, believes repeating that feat will be even harder this season given the huge sums spent by the club’s rivals.

Benitez had to sell to buy in the summer transfer window – and Newcastle made a profit of more than £20million.

“I think last year we did so well that people were expecting this year we would do this or that,” said Benitez.

“You have been in the majority of the games, and you know, like me, that what we did last year was a miracle. To finish 10th was a miracle. That’s it.

“We knew it could be more difficult. I was analysing things trying to be objective. Fulham, Wolves ... they were coming spending £100million. You have these teams spending money, and we didn’t spend as much as them.

“Is it more difficult? Yes. Does that mean I’m not optimistic? Yes, I’m optimistic, because we did so well last year.

“If we go back to the same performances, the same level, we can beat teams and be there.

“Will it be 10th? I hope so, but it will be even more difficult. It’s just to be sure we do well, we stay up, and after, we will see how ambitious we can be.

“We have to be sure everybody understands. I will be the first one to make mistakes, but I will try to make less mistakes than others.”

Asked if the club needed a miracle to stay up this season, Benitez said: “I will say it would be a great achievement.”

Meanwhile, Benitez will have captain Jamaal Lascelles and Jonjo Shelvey available for this afternoon’s game against Crystal Palace.

Lascelles, forced off against Arsenal last weekend with an ankle problem, has been passed fit to play after returning to training.

And midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, an unused substitute for the game after recovering from a thigh problem, is in contention to start.