Rafa Benitez says he was prepared to drop big names at Newcastle United – as the team ALWAYS comes first.
Jonjo Shelvey, Georginio Wijnaldum and Aleksandar Mitrovic have been on the bench in recent weeks at the relegation-threatened club.
I think the reaction has been quite positive. They’ve trained harder, that is what you expect.Rafa Benitez
And the trio could again be among the substitutes for this afternoon’s home game against Crystal Palace.
Second-bottom need to win to keep their faint hopes of survival alive.
Asked about the response of Shelvey, Wijnaldum and Mitrovic to being dropped, Benitez said: “I think the reaction has been quite positive.
“They’ve trained harder, that is what you expect.
“I was talking with them individually at different times and they know that is the way.
“On the training field I was talking with one player. We had a pattern of play and then we were finishing with a game and he was trying to score, but his team-mates was free in the centre.
“I said to him ‘look, it doesn’t matter who scores to me, we want to win’. The team comes first, and then after we can think about players, or managers, or whatever.
“But all of them realise it is important to go all the same way.
“If you are in the middle of the season you might react differently and say ‘I want to play’.
“But now it is a crucial time for everyone and the main thing is to win. It doesn’t matter who is on the pitch.”
Asked why he had dropped them, he added: “It depends. Sometimes it depends on the position. Sometimes you want to change a player because you need to play with another system.”