Halfway through the pre-season training camp in County Kildare, Rafa Benitez has been discussing how the preparation work has been going.

Unlike some other managers, Rafa says ‘Our idea is to try and train as much as possible with the ball’ in the early stages of pre-season work, unlike a certain person who bizarrely looks nailed on to be the next England Manager…?

The Newcastle boss says that the five new signings are blending well with the rest of the squad and everybody is trying their hardest to impress him.

With a larger squad it can only help to have more competition for places, rather than the complacency of so many players in recent years who took their places for granted, no matter how they (under)performed.

Rafa Benitez says this is one of the best times of the year for a manager because ‘you don’t have to pick a team’, meaning that everybody’s happy because players aren’t being left out.

Saturday sees Newcastle take on Bohemian but Rafa sees the result of that game as meaningless compared to the more important things, such as building team spirit and ensuring everything is brought to a peak for when Newcastle travel to Craven Cottage on Friday 5 August.

Rafa Benitez talking to NUFC TV:

“The players are training really well, the conditions are fine, it is good for training. We are happy, everybody trying their best – really pleased with it.

“Our idea is to try and train as much as possible with the ball. We use the gym as well but they are working hard with the ball on the pitch and we control how much they run – they are doing how we expected.

“The atmosphere is good, there is a good relationship between them (new signings and established players) and they try to impress.

It is easy for the manager because you don’t have to pick a team, so everybody is happy.”

First pre-season match v Bohemian on Saturday (16 July):

“I don’t think too much about this game.

“We are going forward with the preparations and will see who is available, then pick the team. The main thing is to try and put on the pitch things that we are doing in every training session.

“The fans have seen the team playing in the final matches of last season and we will be trying to do something similar.

“I am more concerned about creating team spirit and ideas about how we want to play, then be ready for the first game (v Fulham 5 August) of the season.”