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Classic: Huddersfield boss asks Rafa Benitez when’s the last time he was in a relegation battle…

5 years ago

Huddersfield boss David Wagner has questioned whether Rafa Benitez really knows what pressure is.

Wagner seemingly trying to get across the point that it is all very well winning the Champions League and La Liga – but that real pressure is when you are fighting the drop.

In his first frontline post, the Huddersfield head coach and his players struggled last season, flirted with relegation – but eventually finished a comfortable 11 points above the drop.

David Wagner keen to make the point that now many of those same players who fought potential relegation, won’t be feeling pressure and instead will be feeling the ‘excitement’.

Sad to say but it was only 10 months ago that Rafa Benitez had a very real experience of fighting relegation, so real in fact that he was actually at a club when they were relegated.

We all knew that it was a tough ask for the Spaniard to turn around the mess created by Ashley, Charnley, McClaren, Carr, Pardew & Carver – but even though that 10 match challenge was always odds on against succeeding, there is no doubt Rafa will carry that professional pain/frustration around with his every day.

David Wagner is entertaining and has done a great job this season but he has made a bit of a fool of himself by questioning whether Rafa knows real pressure.

As well as last season at Newcastle, Rafa Benitez previously served his apprenticeship in his younger days when he found plenty of relegation struggles/pressure.

Appointed manager of Real Valladolid for the 1995–96 season, Rafa Benitez was sacked after only two wins in 23 games with the club bottom of La Liga.

During the 1996/97 season, Benítez took charge at Osasuna in the Spanish second tier, but after only nine games and one win, he was sacked.

In 1997, he joined another Spanish second tier side, minnows Extremadura. Leading them to a brilliant promotion but with scarce resources they were relegated the next season (1998/99) from La Liga.

After that, he took a year out before then going back into the Spanish second tier and finding success, quickly moving on to Valencia and La Liga titles, before Liverpool and the Champions League.

Amusingly, David Wagner’s previous experience amounts to being on the staff at Borussia Dortmund from 2011 to 2015.

This is the Borussia Dortmund who finished 1st, 2nd, 2nd and 7th in the Bundesliga in his four years at the club and reached the Champions League final.

Experience of pressure? Hmmm.

Whether it is managing clubs to La Liga and Champions League titles, or battling relegation, I think I know which Manager this afternoon has the most in his locker when dealing with ‘pressure’ or ‘excitement’.

David Wagner:

“The last time I felt pressure was 12 months ago and maybe the players as well.

“I am not sure when the last time Rafa Benitez was in a club where he played to avoid relegation.

“This is pressure and what we have at the minute is only excitement, it is very enjoyable what we are doing.

“To be fair, this feels like one of the easiest (matches) – it is against top of the table Newcastle United.

“If you play as Huddersfield Town – altogether we know where we come from and how humble we are – only real excitement and no real expectation.”

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