Danny Higginbotham has paid tribute to the job Rafa Benitez has done at Newcastle United.

A promoted club with minimal backing allowed by Mike Ashley in the transfer market, it has been some achievement for the Newcastle manager to steer the team to safety with a handful of matches still to play.

Danny Higginbotham points out that on Wednesday night at Wembley, the 11 starters included eight who were regulars in the Championship last season.

‘The exceptions being Florian Lejeune who had only one full season previously in top flight football, plus loan signings Kenedy and Dubravka.

The former Stoke and Sunderland defender says that you have to look at what get you promoted and ‘stick to your principles.’

Higginbotham declaring: ‘They came up with specific core values… and they’ve reaped the rewards.’

He credits all three promoted sides for staying up,only the third time this has happened in the Premier League era, the other two previous ones being:

Fulham, Bolton and Blackburn in 2001/02 and QPR, Norwich and Swansea in 2011/12.

Danny Higginbotham talking to The Sun:

It’s no great surprise that Newcastle, Brighton and Huddersfield stayed in the Premier League at the first time of asking.

Just look at their most recent games.

Eight of Newcastle’s starting 11 played in the Championship last year, as did seven for Huddersfield and seven for Brighton.

They came up with specific core values, and however tempting it may to abandon those with new found riches, they did not – and they’ve reaped the rewards.

Yes, you can’t just stick with the exact same team that got you up.

But you need to look at what got you promoted, stick to your principles and add just a splattering of quality to supplement what has already been successful for you.

There is so much more to a team and its success than the 11 players on the pitch.

You need to ensure a strong dressing room, that the character of incoming complement what you already have, and that there is as little unrest as possible.

If you change too much too soon you lose that togetherness and spirit.

But if you stick with a core group, the manager already knows what they are all about – their characteristics, strengths, weaknesses, and how they are able to cope with adversity.

At Stoke we had a very simple mind set for our first season in the Premier League in 2008/09 – If we can have a better identity than three other teams, we will stay up.

And if you look at Brighton and Newcastle, they have done exactly the same.

Both of them had a strong defence as the basis of their game in the Championship, and instead of looking to change the way they play, they stuck to their guns.

This year only six teams have conceded less than Newcastle, while only seven have let in fewer than Brighton.

And things couldn’t be more different for the three relegated teams this year.’



  • Rich Lawson

    No,Rafa’ Benitez does not hail job done by Rafa’ Benitez, he in fact is very generous in his praise for other contributors this season.Do you/somebody not proof read at all before posting ? Also I think it IS a surprise all 3 promoted teams stayed up (and well done to the other 2),when was the last time that happened then ?

  • ghostrider

    I don’t think we’ve overachieved at all. I’d say we’ve underachieved when you look at the quality in the premier league.
    It’s almost like they swapped the three quarters of the premier league for three quarters of the championship, such is the low quality football that’s been on offer.

    If anything I’d say Rafa dodged a relegation bullet by striking it lucky with Kenedy’s ability by actually changing his tactics to suit Kenedy (probably a stipulation by Chelsea) which gave underperforming players the chance to actually express themselves in their natural positions.

    Dubravka was an added security blanket.
    Had he not brought in those two loans we would be relegated by now or at best relying on beating Chelsea to secure prem status.
    My opinion on what I’ve seen.

    Some may call Rafa a genius for identifying those loans but then will call Ashley out for forcing Rafa to bring in Slimani who was injured….yet if Slimani was played and scored a few, Rafa would then be the genius.

    Rafa is overhyped by the media for some reason. Probably because nobody’s going to dish him when Ashley is on offer for the dishing.

    • Come&TakeIt1836

      I get tired of people saying we have had a Championship squad. Yes, much of the team played there last season but almost all of those players had top flight experience prior to last year. It was a low level PL squad playing in the Championship and thus a low level PL squad this year in the PL.

      Despite this, it is near-impossible for me to see how we could be deemed to have ‘underachieved’. Yes, the bottom 2/3s of the league has been various strata of ‘poor’ but considering the thinnest of the quality in our squad (our circumstances), we were not able to be poised to take advantage of league (the wider circumstances).

      When you win, the manager probably gets too much credit and when you lose probably too much blame. Rafa makes mistakes but our PL survival is down to his involvement. Same at Brighton and Huddersfield. Benitez was prepared from the beginning of the season to stay up on goal differential. That was the equivalent of one point he personally was taking responsibility for. Two less wins and our goal differential would matter.

      Much better quality squads with much poorer managers are being relegated or were in the mire until recently. Rafa has earned his salary and plaudits. Please consider joining the chorus…

      • ghostrider

        Rafa has not earned his salary.
        Chris Hughton has earned his salary.
        David Wagner has earned his salary.
        Why?
        Because they came up with championship squads in the real sense of the word.
        Hughton even played some good football and entertained the fans.
        He didn’t set his team up for strict damage limitation of goal difference to beat off relegation.

        We came up with mostly premier league players and I would guess that manay championship fans would have argued the case for us doing so well because we had premier league players in the championship.

        Yeah Rafa’s managed to keep us up but the pedestal he’s being put on by some fans and pundits and media is ridiculously over hyped in my honest opinion.

        • nevfur

          Rafa has his style and system and sticks to them. Not everyone likes it but it’s won him a hatful of trophies and you can hype it up or down to suit yourself but to just win one major trophy here would be something most of us have never seen before and he’s proved he can do it. For me that’s enough to want him to stay. If we become the most boring team in history to win a major trophy I would still be happy. Of course he’s not perfect and makes mistakes, bad signings and gambles that don’t come off and would admit that himself, which managers don’t? However he’s proved he can win trophies and is a decent and likeable bloke with it.

          • ghostrider

            That’s absolutely fine mate and I cannot argue with your point if that’s what you would take.

            I will not enjoy it if he stays but being a fan for life I have no option to be part of it, because I signed on for life of myself or the club.

            However, one mans dull can be another man’s bright.
            I have absolutely no qualms with any fans loving Rafa and enduring whatever comes from him, good bad and downright ugly at times.

            I just think that overall, he’s depressing me and would really love to see him out of the club if he doesn’t change his style.
            Allardyce was crucified for better than we’re getting from rafa.

          • nevfur

            Everyone’s got their own opinions on managers and that’s fine by me, I can understand anyone not liking Rafas style. I think we would all love to win something Keegan style but most would take a trophy any way we can and Rafa has a record of doing it.
            Arsenal fans weren’t complaining when they won stuff 1-0 to the Arsenal.

          • ghostrider

            Well, I just want entertaining football and Rafa provides very little of it.

          • Angelswithdirtyfaces

            Mourinho often plays a similar style to Rafa, yet doesn’t seem to take the same stick for playing boring football. They’ve both won shedfuls.

        • Come&TakeIt1836

          We clearly have different opinions. What significant difference in this year’s outcome could you possibly have expected? Survival was the goal from the beginning. Benitez had a plan, developed the players, and fulfilled any reasonable level of expectation. He may be overpaid in the sense of a squad finishing 10th but that speaks to his CV (and hopefully the squad’s future) and is not a knock on the outcome or Rafa’s work within the club’s progression.

          • ghostrider

            The outcome is fine.
            I’m happy with 10th.
            I’d have been happy with 15th.
            I just haven’t enjoyed the football under him, overall.

          • Come&TakeIt1836

            My humble suggestion is that this is a ‘chicken/egg’ situation and allow for some patience…The aesthetics of the football are a function of the squad quality and not necessarily a long term managerial strategy. Does success come first or do the tactics create success that allows a morph in tactics? In fact Rafa is publically asking for more quality so he doesn’t have to continue to employ the ‘hold on tightly and counter-attack’ strategy against the strongest sides in the division. Therefore, I’d further suggest Rafa doesn’t like the style himself. You can point to Brighton but their forward options have been more prolific allowing a more expansive setup. I think Rafa is working as he sees best with what he has at his disposal. Strength from the back where a slightly better goalkeeper accentuated the group that has gelled with a deep-seated midfield that could dominate play on their day. These areas are leaned on and the offense is asked for minimal touches to generate success.

          • ghostrider

            I’m not overly enthusiastic with what’s next from Rafa but I sincerely hope with funds, he will do what you’re saying and fully balance it all out, including a focus on the forward department and not just on tweaking the backline drill as a primary focus.

            I’ll just wait and see what happens and cross my fingers…because one thing’s for sure…he can’t hang onto excuses of championship quality when things start to go awry or his tactics go bizarre.

          • Come&TakeIt1836

            I agree. As my original post stated, the squad lacks key talent but never was truly a championship level squad and anyone still saying so next year after a season that earned PL security is grasping for excuses.

    • TheFatController

      Angry at the world, ghost rider went straight for the Geordies, knowing criticism of Rafa would make them bite.

      Then he would sit back smugly at the passionate reactions, smug in the knowledge that if he was angry but never showed it, someone else was going to be angry too, but hey look, unlike ghost rider, they can’t control themselves.

      I think we can all agree ghost rider is the best among us as he’s never angry, just telling us how lucky Rafa is to have Kenedy keep us up. It’s as if Rafa didn’t see Kenedy fitting his system and thus didn’t plan it, Kenedy arrived from nowhere so Rafa just shoved him in on the off chance he could play. Talk about lucky !

      • ghostrider

        Did Rafa see Slimani fitting in?
        What about Murphy?
        Atsu?
        Merino?
        Sels?
        Lazaar?
        Gomez?
        Joselu?

        Do i need to go on?

        • Angelswithdirtyfaces

          Please don’t go on. Not at all,

          • paul mclaughlan

            He will.

        • TheFatController

          Slimani was about fifth choice due to Charnley not getting thei others for reasons within or out of his control
          Murphy may go on to be a better player but will probably hold value
          Atsu got us promoted
          Merino is behind JJ and Mo who are both dominating MF sad Rafa has improved their play
          Sels a punt, but what we got wrong there we have more than put right with the next keeper brought in
          Lazaar a punt that didn’t work
          Joselu is a £5m striker all day long – what were you expecting from a 28 year old £5m striker?

          Keep trolling – my analysis of you stands because your bias of facts to persecute Rafa and his followers is unhealthy, and a sign of your inability to interact with people socially and thus you spend a lifetime trolling our fans amid your confused feelings about life

          • ghostrider

            No bias from me. I’ve just laid it bare for you and you’re struggling for answers….but fair try though.