Rafa Benitez has a message for Newcastle United fans ahead of Mike Ashley meeting
Rafa Benitez told of his “pride” after Newcastle United fans chanted his name and implored him to stay – ahead of a meeting with Mike Ashley.
Benitez’s side ended their Premier League campaign with a 4-0 win over Fulham yesterday.
Jonjo Shelvey, Ayoze Perez, Fabian Schar and Salomon Rondon were on target at Craven Cottage, where visiting fans filled most of the Putney End.
And the result saw the club, which didn’t win any of its first 10 games, end the season in 13th place with 45 points.
“Obviously, I think in the end it was a very good season,” said Benitez.
“We have proved that this is a very difficult competition, and I’m really proud of this group of players, giving everything even after the games we were safe.
“The fans were fantastic – you would never have expected that many fans when you are safe. Everything was positive.
“We needed to be solid, strong in defence, as they would be dangerous in counter-attack.
“We had practiced that corner, Jonjo scored a very good goal.
“It was then easier for us to manage after we scored the third.”
Benitez, out of contract on June 30, hopes to meet owner Ashley this week for talks over his and the club’s future.
Newcastle fans chanted “Rafa Benitez, we want you to stay” throughout the game.
There were also chants against Ashley, who was at the game.
“The fans have been so good all season,” said United’s manager.
“I would say a surprise, but no it isn’t. They have been very good all season. Since I have been here, they have been fantastic, and I’m trying my best to give them something back.
“I’m always emotional. I’m proud to hear the fans singing your name. They have been like this all season.
“I’m professional, and if I can give them something back, like these four goals on the last day, a sunny day.
“It’s nice to know we did what we had to do.”
Ashley visited the dressing room after the game to thank Benitez and his players for their efforts this season.
“He has been to say thank you to everyone,” said Benitez.
“He came to say thank you very much to all the players and everyone in the dressing room.
“He said congratulations to everyone.
“We were in the dressing room, so he was talking to me and the team, saying ‘thank you very much’, but nothing special.”
Benitez – who has already held discussions with managing director Lee Charnley – hopes to have talks with Ashley in the coming days.
“We’ll have a meeting, hopefully this week, and we’ll see where we are,” said the 59-year-old.
Asked if he wanted to stay at St James’s Park, Benitez said: “Because we’ve been talking about this for a while, my answer is always the same.
“We have a meeting coming soon, hopefully, and then we’ll see where we are.
“Someone will ask me the question, do I want to stay? It’s very easy.
“I can see the potential of this massive club – and hopefully we can do things in a way that will be good for everyone to move forward, maybe together.
“At the moment, it’s just keep talking and see what happens next week.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle’s Under-23s take on Southampton at the St Mary’s Stadium tonight in the Premier League 2 Division Two promotion play-off final (7pm kick-off).