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Opinion

No China Crisis as worries over Newcastle United trip a bit of a red herring as Rafa Benitez responds

1 year ago
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Rafa Benitez was asked a rather bizarre question at his pre-Arsenal press conference on Friday.

The Newcastle boss questioned as to whether the pre-season trip to China (see below) could be a deciding factor in him deciding to leave the club.

Clearly a bit bemused at such a suggestion, Rafa Benitez reassured the assembled media that no, if he does indeed end up leaving, it won’t be because of July’s visit to China for the Premier League Asia Trophy.

Newcastle are in China along with Manchester City, West Ham and Wolves in July, NUFC playing two games, one on 17 July and another on 20 July.

However, media worries about the trip are a little over the top.

For starters, this is a proper Premier League official competition and everything will be organised and done properly, rather than no doubt attempted on the cheap if this was Mike Ashley arranging friendlies somewhere.

Flights from London to Beijing are around 10 hours, easily less than half the flying time compared to the trip to New Zealand a few years ago.

The pre-season trip to America was seen as a really bad idea more because of the shambolic organisation of it by the club, with poor travel arrangements and even arranging a game where the most valuable players couldn’t be risked because it was a poor artificial pitch.

Obviously any manager would ideally stay close to home but when you look at last season’s arrangements I don’t think it is too difficult to see how this China trip can be accommodated.

Last summer the players reported back at the start of July then on 11 July flew off for a week in Ireland, which ended with the first friendly against St Patrick’s Athletic on 17 July.

Then followed away friendlies at Hull (24 July) and over in Portugal at Porto (28 July) and Sporting Braga (1 August).

Before then the sole home friendly with Augsburg on 4 August and the season kicking off against Tottenham on 11 August.

Rafa Benitez might have to swap around his arrangements and yes it is further away but you can see the trip to China replacing that week or so in Portugal for those two friendlies.

There are many things not ideal at Newcastle United and I don’t this one even registers when compared to other worries!

Rafa Benitez:

“I knew that the club wanted to go [after receiving an invite to the Premier League Asia Trophy] and they informed me about all the details.

“You know my idea [for ideal pre-season preparations].

“Try to keep the team away from the training ground but close enough so that it is not changing everything.

“If you know the conditions are okay then that’s perfect.

“If you have to go away and you don’t control what’s going on, then you can have surprises.

“When I was with Liverpool we had a training session with weights outside, and it was raining, so you couldn’t do anything, whilst another training session was in 95 degrees humidity.

“You couldn’t train [really]. 

“The positive thing is that we have experience [when at previous clubs] and we know now the programme now, so we try to manage.

“I have experience in China and have been there with different teams.

“From a commercial point of view it is always a positive for a club.

“From the point of view of the team it is not ideal but you manage, we had this situation with Liverpool and Madrid.”

The 26 March Newcastle United official announcement:

‘The Premier League have announced that Newcastle United, Manchester City, West Ham United and Wolverhampton Wanderers will compete for the Premier League Asia Trophy in China this summer.

All four teams will play in a double-header at Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre on Wednesday, 17th July, with a third/fourth place play-off and final staged at Shanghai’s Hongkou Stadium on Saturday, 20th July.

This is the second Premier League Asia Trophy to be held in mainland China, with Beijing hosting the tournament in 2009. It is the first time the biennial tournament has taken place in two different locations, giving more fans the opportunity to enjoy the Premier League experience and witness a world-class line-up of players and managers.

Ticket prices and on-sale dates will be announced soon and the Premier League will continue its commitment to ensuring fans can attend matches at affordable prices. PPSports will be the exclusive broadcaster for the Premier League Asia Trophy in China.

This is the ninth edition of the Premier League Asia Trophy (previously Barclays Asia Trophy). Newcastle United are taking part for the second time after featuring in the inaugural competition in 2003.

Reigning Premier League champions Manchester City are making their third appearance in the tournament and won the trophy in 2013. West Ham United participated in 2009 and it is a debut appearance for Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Premier League Interim Chief Executive Richard Masters said:

“We are delighted to be bringing the Premier League Asia Trophy to China this summer and playing in both Nanjing and Shanghai will be an exciting experience for the league and our clubs. The fans in Asia always offer us an extremely warm welcome and terrific support, and we look forward to seeing them in July.

“In Manchester City we have the reigning Premier League champions competing for the trophy, along with three other excellent clubs in Newcastle United, West Ham United and Wolverhampton Wanderers. I have no doubt the fans can expect some competitive and thrilling Premier League action.”

The Premier League Asia Trophy is part of the league’s ongoing commitment to fans in Asia, and to supporting the development of football at all levels in China.

As part of this, the Premier Skills programme has reached more than one million young people and trained more than 5,000 coaches and referees in 23 cities across China since 2007.

The Premier League also assists China at an elite level through a formal partnership with the Chinese Super League and Chinese FA to help improve the professional game in the country. This bond was further strengthened in 2016 through the UK/China Football Forum and now has a renewed focus on youth development.

In relation to this, a full programme of football development initiatives is planned leading up to and during this year’s tournament, including coach education, referee training and a youth tournament.

The Premier League Asia Trophy will be officiated by Premier League match officials as well as local match officials and will be staged in accordance with Premier League rules.’

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