Wednesday 18 October 2017

'I will not talk about the investigation' - Rafa Benitez keen to focus on football amid HMRC probe

Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez during the Sky Bet Championship match between Newcastle United and Preston North End at St James' Park on April 24, 2017 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images)
Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez during the Sky Bet Championship match between Newcastle United and Preston North End at St James' Park on April 24, 2017 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Damien Spellman

Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez is planning for life in the Premier League after a traumatic 24 hours on Tyneside.

The 57-year-old Spaniard guided the club back into the top flight at the first time of asking on Monday evening, but the celebrations were still ongoing when managing director Lee Charnley was arrested and later released without charge as part of an investigation by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

However, Benitez insisted it was business as usual as he prepared his side for Friday night's Sky Bet Championship trip to Cardiff, although he did admit that he was glad promotion had already been secured.

He said: "There is an investigation about something that happened four or five years ago. I will not talk about the investigation.

"What we did was train as usual, a normal session. Today I talked with Lee about pre-season. We are trying to do football business in the same way.

"A friend was telling me that we were lucky that we were promoted already, so I will take the positive. The positive thing is that we have done our job, and we enjoyed that for a couple of days.

"We have to be really proud of what we did, wait, and just do what we have to do, concentrate on football."

Benitez revealed owner Mike Ashley had contacted him by telephone to congratulate him, his staff and the players on promotion, and revealed talks on the way forward, which could shape his continued presence at St James' Park, will take place soon.

He said: "If you are asking if he has congratulated me, yes, and we will discuss the future of the club, the future of myself and everything. We will do it in the professional way that I like to do things.

"I will have the meeting with him in, I don't know, days or maybe a week, or something like this."

Asked if he had a decision to make about the future, Benitez added: "I am quite confident everything will be fine, but my focus is on the remaining games.

"I need to talk with Mike and it depends on how things are going whether I am optimistic. At the moment, I am quite happy.

"We have been fighting hard to go back to the Premier League and we will do our best to be sure we have a competitive team and that we can challenge for whatever."

Meanwhile, the Football Association has confirmed it has asked Benitez for his observations over his comments about the appointment of Huddersfield-born Andy Madley as referee for the Preston game.

The Magpies boss had expressed his surprise that a man whose home-town club was one of Newcastle's main promotion rivals could take charge of the fixture and revealed that contact had been made with the EFL over the matter.

An EFL spokesman later confirmed that the appointment had been made in line with PGMOL regulations.

Press Association

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