Keeping Benitez akin to a magic trick, says ex-Newcastle chief

Date published: Saturday 28th May 2016 11:09

Rafael Benitez: Hoping to lead Newcastle back into the Premier League

Former Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd believes current owner Mike Ashley has “pulled a rabbit out of the hat” by persuading Rafael Benitez to stay on as manager following the club’s relegation to the Championship.

Spaniard Benitez replaced Steve McClaren in March but failed to keep the Magpies in the Premier League.

However, Newcastle finished the season with a stunning 5-1 win at home to Tottenham, who had spent the majority of the campaign battling for the title, and that result offered hope the club could bounce back at the first attempt.

Benitez, 56, has since signed a three-year deal at St James’ Park, and Shepherd, who was chairman from 1997 to 2007, believes it is a major coup for the Tynesiders.

He told SunSport: “It has to go down as the best bit of business Mike Ashley has done since he took over. Mike has pulled a rabbit out of the hat by getting him to stay.

“It will go some way towards making up for some of the past mistakes. No one is perfect and Mike has made a few wrong turns along the way.”

On Benitez, Shepherd added: “They needed someone like Rafa to organise things in the same way Chris Hughton did the last time we went down – and Rafa ticks all the boxes.

“He’s got a great track record and he’s got a terrific amount of experience and that will be perfect for the predicament Newcastle find themselves in.”

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