Sunday 24 September 2017

Rafael Benitez to sit down with Mike Ashley next week to discuss his Newcastle United future

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - APRIL 24: 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 UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - APRIL 24: 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)

Damian Spellman

Rafael Benitez will head into a meeting with Newcastle owner Mike Ashley next week hoping they have the same ambition for the Sky Bet Championship title winners.

The Magpies clinched the crown in a dramatic late twist on the final day of the season to leave the Spaniard, who could not prevent them from slipping out of the Premier League 12 months ago, having added silverware to the minimum requirement of promotion.

Benitez signed a three-year contract when he agreed to stay at St James' Park in May last year but has hinted that his continued presence could depend on what Ashley has to say about the future, although he is hopeful of a positive outcome.

Speaking after his side's 3-0 home victory over Barnsley, he said: "I have already an idea, I think he has an idea. Now we have to put both ideas together and hopefully it will be fine this week."

Ashley made a rare visit to St James' on Sunday afternoon to witness the scenes as the win, coupled with Brighton's failure to collect three points at Aston Villa, handed Newcastle the trophy.

Asked if the pair would talk during the hours after the game, Benitez said: "I don't know if he will be around, but I don't have any problem. Obviously I think it's the right time to talk when everything is fine and if not, it doesn't matter.

"We will be in contact, but the main thing is to be sure that we both share the same ambition about how to improve, how to be competitive and how to do the right things for everyone."

It is the second time in seven years that the Magpies have bounced back as champions in the wake of relegation, and handed Benitez a first league title - admittedly in a lower division - since he guided Valencia to LaLiga glory in 2004.

He said: "Sometimes you can win with a very good team and it seems that it's easy but in this case, when you play 46 games in a very difficult season after going down...

"We were talking about the stats for teams which have been relegated, so to do it and to do it in style today and the way that we did during the whole season, that is really, really emotional and I am really proud of that."

Barnsley boss Paul Heckingbottom was disappointed with his side's performance on the day, but reflected upon a satisfactory season for the South Yorkshire club.

He said: "When the fixtures came out, with me living in the area down in Barnsley and speaking to fans, people working for the club, the board, the phrase that kept coming out was, 'I hope we've not got to go to Newcastle and get something to stay up'.

"It never came about - at one point, we were chasing the play-offs. Obviously it was tough losing lots of players in January, but we have been competitive ever since as well so it's credit to everyone, all the staff, all the players, how hard everyone has worked.

"On reflection, I have to be really, really pleased, and we have learnt a lot in this season as well."

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