News this morning that Rafa Benitez is tackling Newcastle United’s ongoing poor injury record.
The coming week will see extra medical staff come in to work with the players and improve on an injury problem that hampers the squad year after tear.
Whilst injuries happen at every club, you do have to wonder why more days have been lost at Newcastle than pretty much any other club.
You can’t even use the excuse of a punishing schedule, as Mike Ashley’s dismissal of the cup competitions and the playing of weakened teams, has ensured Newcastle usually end up playing fewer matches than almost any of their rivals.
New medical staff and changes to the training/playing regime will hopefully go some way to improving this area.
However, there are two important things that Rafa Benitez can’t directly control, although hopefully he can influence these two factors as well.
Firstly, there is the mentality of players.
Countless times we see players reported to have picked up injuries and supposed to be back within a certain timeframe, only to then the time off be stretched ever further and doubts form in the minds of fans.
I find it very hard to believe that there would have been so many days missed if we had players with the attitude of an Alan Shearer. You knew he was gutted to miss a single game and would push himself to be back even from serious injury as soon as possible, I just don’t see that with many of the ramshackle group of players recruited in recent years.
Maybe he is just really unlucky but I can’t help but feel that Fabricio Coloccini epitomises this difference. In his first four seasons at Newcastle he started 34, 37, 35 and 35 games, then in the next/last four seasons he has only once started more than 27 matches. Injuries lingering on and the Newcastle Captain often allowed to go back to Argentina when these spells out came along.
The second factor is winning.
The more games that teams win, miraculously the less injuries players have – or if they do pick them up, they tend to come back far quicker. Once again this comes down to the mentality of players, with weaker character wanting to play more during the good times, rather than when the pressure is on.
So you can recruit all the coaches and medical staff you want but for me the biggest challenge Rafa Benitez has, is to retain and recruit the best possible players with both talent and character, then get them winning matches.