Rafa Benitez says his Newcastle United players deserve more credit for the way they have tackled the Championship.
Benitez’s promotion-chasing side take on Leeds United at St James’s Park tonight sitting second in the Championship behind Brighton and Hove Albion.
I will say, credit to these players and credit to everyone. It’s not easy. You cannot ‘they were spending’. You see other teams were spending. I will not name anyone, but you see one that was spending more than us.Rafa Benitez
United – 10 points ahead of third-placed Huddersfield Town – need a maximum of nine points from their last five games to secure automatic promotion.
There has been criticism of some of Newcastle’s recent performances in recent months, while elsewhere, there have been claims that the team’s success has been largely down to the millions of pounds spent last summer, when the club turned in a £30million-plus profit following several big-name departures.
“I will say, credit to these players and credit to everyone,” said United manager Benitez. “It’s not easy.
“You cannot say ‘they were spending’. You see other teams were spending. I will not name anyone, but you see one that was spending more than us.
“We made a profit and are in a good position.
“I will say that we have to give credit to the players. We have to finish our job.”
To back up his argument, Benitez pointed to the difficulties relegated teams have got into in recent seasons.
Big-spending Aston Villa and Norwich City, relegated with Newcastle, are languishing in mid-table and facing up to another season in English football’s second tier.
Leeds, meanwhile, have been unable to win promotion back to the Premier League since their relegation in 2004.
“It shows how difficult the division is and how difficult it is to be where we are,” said Benitez.
“You have the stats. The last five years, the fifth and the fourth ... none of the teams that were relegated were promoted.
“Three years before, just one team was promoted in the play-offs. Two years (ago), one team in the play-offs and the last year one in the play-offs and one straight (promotion).
“So that means in five years, it is proved that it is very difficult.
“We are in a very good position. I will say again, you see Aston Villa and Norwich.
“It’s a massive difference to have your team ready like Brighton or Sheffield Wednesday.
“I was talking with Carlos (Carvalhal, Wednesday head coach) before the game.
“They have already the team, and they have to bring new players to fix problems.
“But when you have to change half of the squad and settle down, it means that it’s more difficult.
“Some of your players go. The players that you have are good players, but not the players at the top of the table that were making the difference.
“To put everything together and still perform at this level, you have to give credit to these players.”