Benitez shuns table as Newcastle enjoy lofty perch
Rafael Benitez is refusing even to look at the Premier League table despite his Newcastle side climbing into fourth place with a win over Stoke.
A day short of 20 years since the promoted Magpies famously beat Barcelona 3-2 in a Champions League encounter at St James' Park, they found themselves sitting in the top four at the final whistle after skipper Jamaal Lascelles had headed them to victory for the second time in a week.
However brief their stay may be, the locals among a crowd of 51,795 left St James' Park in jubilant mood after witnessing a third successive league win and perhaps dreaming, albeit fancifully, of the days when the club once mixed it with Europe's aristocrats.
But manager Benitez was keeping his feet firmly on the ground as he celebrated a successful return to the dug-out.
Asked how he felt when he looked at the table, he replied: "I haven't seen the table and I don't want to see the table, believe me. I said one game at a time and now it's just to be sure that the fans enjoy it.
"They can enjoy it, we have to enjoy it, but we have to be sure that the next training session, we start correcting things and improving things and doing things in the way we are doing things at the moment.
"That's our responsibility."
Lascelles' 68th-minute header secured three more precious points towards Newcastle's survival fund, but he and his team-mates had to show real character after Xherdan Shaqiri had cancelled out Christian Atsu's opener.
Benitez said: "The main thing is that, the togetherness, the work-rate, the character, the whole team, the connection with the fans because the fans appreciate that.
"I put in the programme notes that this is something that's really important, players who want to stay, want to fight, want to defend the black and white shirt, and they are doing that.
"The fans, they appreciate that and for us to do that every week and the captain leading by example is something that you have to be really pleased with."
The Magpies might have won more comfortably had former Stoke striker Joselu taken any of the three chances which came his way, although they were grateful to keeper Rob Elliot for three saves to deny Shaqiri twice and Mame Biram Diouf.
Stoke boss Mark Hughes was disappointed not to come away with anything as his side lost for the first time since the opening day of the campaign, but urged his players to learn the lessons of their reverse on Tyneside.
He said: "We didn't play particularly well today - I didn't think we were poor, we just weren't particularly as good as we have been in recent weeks, so that's the disappointment.
"We are going to face teams like Newcastle, who show us respect in terms of our ability and what we can do to teams and will sit back and invite us on, so we have got to be a little bit better and a little bit more accurate in our work and we'll be fine.
"The lad [Lascelles ] scored against Swansea the other week as well, so we'd talked about his threat. But obviously the right ball right on to his head, it's difficult to defend under those circumstances.
"That was the disappointment because at that point, we had got back into the game and I thought we were growing into our performance and we may well have got something out of the game.
"But in the end, it wasn't to be."