‘I’m really pleased with those words’: Rafa Benitez responds to Alan Shearer’s comments on Newcastle

Rafa Benitez is of the opinion that the electric atmosphere at St James’ Park in recent weeks proves that Newcastle United are doing things “right” on the pitch at the moment.

The Magpies moved six points clear of the drop zone following a thrilling 3-2 comeback victory over Everton at the weekend, their fifth successive win on home soil.

With 13th-placed United now closer to ninth-placed West Ham United than they are to third-bottom Cardiff City, there is renewed optimism that the Magpies can definitively pull clear of the relegation zone long before the end of the season.

Newcastle travel to Dean Court to take on AFC Bournemouth, who are just one place and three points above them in the table, on Saturday, with the Magpies looking to pick up the first of the two victories Benitez now suggests they need in order to guarantee their Premier League status for another season.

“Obviously we know that we are in the relegation battle and that we have to win a lot of games if we want to stay up,” Benitez told nufcTV when asked if Newcastle’s win over Everton was even more significant once Cardiff, Southampton and Brighton & Hove Albion’s respective victories over the weekend were taken into account.

“So I think everybody was feeling how important it was to get the [winning] goal, how important the result was – and this reaction [the celebration around the stadium] is normal.

“It’s always important to do your job and just try to keep winning games. If the other [teams in the relegation battle] lose, then they can give you a hand. In this case [over the weekend] it didn’t happen. It was therefore important for us to show the fighting spirit throughout the game.

“You could see the team was pushing and pushing until the end, and that is the key if you want to stay up.”

Magpies legend Alan Shearer was on Tyneside to witness United’s excellent second-half fightback against Everton, and he declared that it was the loudest he’d heard St James’ Park in a “long while”.

Benitez welcomed the former Newcastle striker’s comments, and insists that the positive atmosphere at United’s home matches proves the Magpies are doing the right things on the pitch at the moment, because it means the crowd are feeding off the players’ performances.

“It’s massive for us to win this way and with the fans behind us,” Benitez said of Shearer’s comments.

“Obviously he [Shearer] knows what it means to have this atmosphere around the stadium, so I’m really pleased also with these words.

“What that means is that something is right at the moment in the stadium and around the team.”

Newcastle’s win over Everton came on the back of a deflating performance away at West Ham, where the Magpies were easily defeated 2-0.

But Benitez was delighted with the response of his players, who he now believes recognise that they have to maintain their intensity levels right through until the end of the campaign.

“We understood that the approach [at West Ham] was not good enough,” Magpies manager Benitez added.
“[Against Everton] we conceded goals, but not because the team was not focused on doing what they have to do. Everton have some good players, so you have to give credit to them.

“But the reaction has been the key for this team’s spirit, and it is what you are expecting from this team from now until the end of the season.

“To be fair, the way that we won you can say that it was quite good. You have to give credit to our players because from the beginning we were working hard, trying to do well, creating chances, but we didn’t take our chances.

“We missed the penalty, we conceded one minute after, and so it was quite difficult to react to that. At half-time I was telling them to stay calm, score a goal and get back into the game.

“Until the end they were pushing and pushing, and then you could feel the fans behind the team, helping the team to do a little bit more. So, in the end, everyone was happy.”

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