Rafa Benitez says Newcastle United’s players DO care – and they’re showing it week in, week out.
Benitez’s side moved up to fourth in the Premier League after a third successive win on Saturday.
When I pick players, I need to be sure I’m choosing players who really want it and are not always making excuses when they make mistakes.Rafa Benitez
Goals from Jamaal Lascelles and Christian Atsu saw Newcastle beat Stoke City 2-1 at St James’s Park.
United had last won three top-flight games in a row in November 2014.
And Benitez believes that run of results is down to the character as much as the ability of his squad.
“They are showing the fans that they care,” said Benitez.
“When I pick players, I need to be sure I’m choosing players who really want it and are not always making excuses when they make mistakes.
“I want players who will make sure they react in the right way.”
Benitez returned to the dugout for the Stoke game.
The 57-year-old had missed the previous weekend’s win over Swansea City as he recovered from an operation.
Benitez, however, sat for most of the game.
Newcastle’s manager was unable to shout instructions to his players, so he opted to passes messages through his assistants.
“I cannot shout too much at the moment, so I was passing my messages on to Paco (Moreno, United’s fitness coach),” said Benitez.
“There were times when I wanted to shout, but I couldn’t.
“It is just a bit of pain now – every day I’m taking less tablets. I am feeling better.”
Newcastle take on Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium on Sunday looking to cement their position near the top of the table.
Benitez, however, won’t push his players too hard.
“The players know that I like to improve things,” he said. “But I’m not trying to push things too much with some of them.
“You try to push the players who you know can do it. The players who can do it quicker, you push them harder.
“You have to have them believing they will improve individually, and then we will improve as a team.”