Phil Thompson is a fully signed up member of the Rafa Benitez appreciation society.
Last season the former Liverpool defender was full of praise for the job the Newcastle boss did on such limited resources.
Moving on to the new season and Phil Thompson sees it very much as same again, declaring ‘Rafael Benitez has done incredible stuff at Newcastle but it’s just déjà vu.’
Newcastle’s top half finish last season, was the first time in five years that a promoted club had achieved an instant top 10 position in the top tier.
However, for Rafa to progress the team, Thompson says: ‘He needs more backing and he’s not getting it.’
Phil Thompson picks out Lascelles and Dubravka as key men this coming season but is in no doubt as to who the real top man will be: ‘Benitez can get them on a few good runs to get them over the line.’
Fair to say that Newcastle fans are more concerned at the other end due to a lack of creativity and goals, the final three pre-season friendlies seeing NUFC fail to score any goals whatsoever.
With Rondon and Muto so far unavailable and both Shelvey and Kenedy not playing a lot of minutes pre-season, there is at least some scope for improvement, especially if there is some other positive news late in this transfer window.
Extracts from the Sky Sports Newcastle United preview:
‘Newcastle became the first promoted team in five years to secure a top-half finish at the first attempt when Rafa Benitez guided them to tenth place thanks to a strong finish to the season. But any hope that this could prove the catalyst for further improvement is now diminished given the lack of investment in the club over the summer.
In a world of ever-escalating transfer fees, Newcastle have not broken their transfer record in 13 years. Mike Ashley’s protracted sale of the club has stalled and this has left them in limbo, hoping to do just enough to stay up but with an owner who is seemingly unwilling to invest any more than is absolutely necessary. It is not an inspiring environment.
The supporters remain passionate about their club and while Benitez is at the helm, they will continue to dream. Jamaal Lascelles has developed into a formidable centre-back – a reminder that there is still some talent at St James’ Park. But with Benitez out of contract next summer, Newcastle go into the campaign with concern as well as excitement.’
“Rafael Benitez has done incredible stuff at Newcastle but it’s just déjà vu.
“He needs more backing and he’s not getting it.
“If he’s going to stay then he’s just got to get on with it as it is a joy for every Geordie that he is there.
“We hear about these stand-offs but Rafa remains there, so it can’t all be bad.
“The transfer business isn’t fulfilling any of the passions, but they know Benitez can get them on a few good runs to get them over the line.
“Rafa has always been a great defensive organiser and signing the goalkeeper is key as he impressed me with the way he organised the back four.
“Jamaal Lascelles has been a player who has attracted the interest of top clubs and he’ll be vital for Benitez in keeping the defensive unit solid.”