Newcastle United surprise star declares “Rafa Benitez must like me now!”
Saturday was looking like just yet another typical day at the office for Newcastle United.
Completely outplayed and only a combination of wasteful finishing by Watford, Martin Dubravka, the woodwork and some desperate last ditch defending, had kept the game goalless.
Seconds after Watford had hit the bar, Rafa Benitez was forced to make his third and final substitution, playmaker Jonjo Shelvey replaced by free transfer Ki Sung-yeung.
However, 38 minutes later and Newcastle had picked up their first win of the season and Ki Sung-yeung was the man of the match.
With Mike Ashley preventing proper investment in the squad, when Mikel Merino was sold for £10m in the summer, Rafa Benitez was only able to bring in free transfer Ki as a replacement, after the midfielder had been released by relegated Swansea.
Playing against Chelsea and Man City in Jonjo Selvey’s absence, Ki Sung-yeung then found himself totally dropped from the matchday squad, five weeks without even a place on the bench until recalled for Southampton, getting a brief appearance at the end of that goalless draw in place of Mohamed Diame.
Ki continued to play for his national side but looking back at being dropped from the Newcastle squad the midfielder says: ‘Maybe there were things the manager didn’t like about my game. I’m not saying the manager didn’t like me…but clearly he wasn’t satisfied with what I was showing early on.’
Still early days of course by Ki Sung-yeung now hopes that after turning Saturday’s game, the manager will recognise what he can do if given the chance: ‘Rafa Benitez must like me now! He can see now how I can help the team.’
With Rafa Benitez invariably relying on experience rather than younger players, it is a surprise that he hasn’t turned to Ki earlier.
His former Swansea teammate Federico Fernandez has shown his worth in what for him is his fifth Premier League season, whilst for Ki it is his seventh.
Fingers crossed that Jonjo Shelvey is ok for next weekend and at last Rafa Benitez has a bit of a positive decision to make.
The feeling after Saturday amongst fans appeared to be that with Mohamed Diame yet again struggling, a Shelevy/Ki combination could be the way to go.
Whatever the team selection proves to be, we need to see plenty of other Newcastle players following Ki’s lead and stepping it up in this relegation fight.
“It was obviously the manager’s decision that I haven’t played much.
“Maybe there were things the manager didn’t like about my game…
“I’m not saying the manager didn’t like me…but clearly he wasn’t satisfied with what I was showing early on.
“That’s why I didn’t make the squad and I respected that decision, he is the manager and I am the player.
“He has a job to do and so do we.
“I knew that I had to work harder but was never worried I had made the wrong move.
“This is my seventh season in the Premier League and I’ve experienced many things, still have faith in my own qualities and I believe in myself.
“Yes, it was a little bit difficult, but I always knew that given the chance, I could play in front of these fans.
“Rafa Benitez must like me now!
“He can see now how I can help the team.
“Hopefully, this result is a boost we all needed, not just to move up the table but to give everyone belief.
“It’s not good being at the bottom of the table, no one likes that, and it has been a difficult time for everyone.
“So this is a big win for all of us.”
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 1 Watford 0
Goal: Perez 65
Possession was Watford 58% Newcastle 42%
Total shots were Watford 16 Newcastle 10
Shots on target were Watford 1 Newcastle 2
Corners were Watford 9 Newcastle 8
Referee: Craig Pawson
Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles (Schar 45), Fernandez, Dummett, Ritchie, Diame, Shelvey (Ki 51), Kenedy, Rondon, Muto (Perez 45+2)
Darlow, Joselu, Manquillo, Atsu
Crowd: 49,157 (Watford approx 1,500)
(Thousands of Newcastle fans didn’t miss much apart from a win! – Read HERE)
(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Newcastle 1 Watford 0 – Read HERE)
(Javi Gracia can’t believe how his Watford side didn’t win, never mind get beat – Read HERE)
(Graeme Swann video message for Rafa Benitez after Newcastle win – See HERE)
(Charlie Nicholas dissects Newcastle 1 Watford 0 – Read HERE)
(Rafa Benitez post-match verdict – Read HERE)
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