Newcastle flop Henri Saivet claims that he was told that the Championship wasn’t for foreigners, only for the English.

This comment came alongside others claiming bizarrely, that Rafa Benitez had been asked by those running Newcastle United (presumably Charnley/Ashley) to play English players last season, rather than foreign imports.

All very strange. If this was claimed of the likes of Pardew, Carver or McClaren then many Newcastle fans would be happy to consider it as a possibility…but Rafa?

I think we all know that if something so stupid as that had been tried to be imposed on Rafa Benitez, he would have laughed in Charnley’s face.

I think Benitez is clearly a pragmatist and will simply do whatever he thinks is needed to get the job done, as proved by his targeted recruitment of so many proven Championship performers, rather than big gambles on numerous young unproven foreign players as we became so used to in recent years.

The fact that Rafa isn’t from these shores is also surely another big problem in terms of believing that he would blindly think only English, or rather British (which is what Saivet will be referring to), players could do the job.

You only have to look at his team selections this season, 17 players have started Championship matches (see below) and seven of those are not British/Irish.

These include the likes of the diminutive Vurnon Anita who has started every game, as well as Matz Sels – Rafa admitting it will take the Belgian time to adjust but picking him ahead of the easier choice which would have been the Englishman Karl Darlow.

Henri Saivet interviewed by France Football:

‘How was it with Benitez?’

“Benitez is a great coach, he focuses a lot on tactics – a little too much at times, but he is a great coach.

“When it happened (Rafa replacing McClaren), the group was lost, no confidence and there remained (only) ten matches.

“It was complicated for him – the leaders asked him to play the English. It’s like that there.

“They even said that the championship was for the English, not foreigners, because they have to play every three days and the need to fight as well. We (the foreigners), if we are given the confidence, we could have done that.”

‘Did you like English football, despite the little game time played?’

“The pace is different, it is non-stop, there is no stoppage time – but that does not bother me. This is a kind of football that I like.

“I needed a couple of matches to get the rhythm and to know the team but it did not leave me time to show anything. When you take a player, the goal is to put him in the best possible conditions. I wondered why I did not play more.”

The list below is every player who has started at least one Championship match this season for Newcastle, with number of starts after each name and the score before each one is the average mark out of 10 for each player from fans using our interactive player ratings system.

7.1 Matt Ritchie (4)

6.5 Chancel Mbemba (4)

6.5 Yoan Gouffran (3)

6.4 Jonjo Shelvey (3)

6.0 Isaac Hayden (5)

5.8 Mohamed Diame (3)

5.7 Dwight Gayle (4)

5.3 Jamaal Lascelles (4)

5.2 Vurnon Anita (5)

5.2 Ayoze Perez (3)

5.0 Matz Sels (5)

5.0 Ciaran Clark (2)

4.7 Daryl Janmaat (2)

4.5 Paul Dummett (4)

4.5 Grant Hanley (1)

4.1 Jack Colback (2)

2.7 Rolando Aarons (1)