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Tuesday 24 October 2017

Newcastle keeper Elliot urges 'brilliant' Benitez to stay

Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez has led the club back to the Premier League
Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez has led the club back to the Premier League

Rob Elliot is keeping his fingers crossed that Rafael Benitez stays at Newcastle for years to come as the club attempts to re-establish itself in the Premier League.

The 57-year-old guided the Magpies back into the top flight on Monday night, when a 4-1 victory over Preston clinched the last remaining automatic promotion place.

Benitez quickly laid down a marker as he, owner Mike Ashley and managing director Lee Charnley prepare to discuss the way forward, with the sub-text being that, should the club not share his ambition, he may not see out the three-year contract he signed in May last year.

But Elliot is hoping the masterplan remains on track and that the Spaniard is at St James' Park to stay.

He said: "He deserves every plaudit. It's been tough for him. He's come from Real Madrid to manage Newcastle in the Championship, expected to win the league, expected to go up without losing a game and it doesn't work like that.

"He's been brilliant. He's kept himself calm, he's kept the players calm. Being around the place, there is a much more positive atmosphere. When we have lost, we have bounced back straight away.

"But the biggest thing is the connection between the fans and the players and the manager - it is back again and hopefully we can just continue that because when we are all together and the club is moving in the right direction, the whole city can be really special on nights like Monday.

"Hopefully there are more of them to come."

Benitez could have walked away from the club at the end of last season, having been unable to arrest the slide into the Sky Bet Championship despite a 5-1 final day victory over high-flying Tottenham, but chose instead to remain.

It was a decision which surprised many, but it sent a message to the dressing room.

Elliot admitted: "We were as surprised as everyone was when he came in. But he has brought passion to the club and pride back. And the commitment he showed to stay, that is the biggest thing. The fact that he stayed just shows not only the type of person he is, but the type of club we are.

"That Tottenham game, that for me was the start of the manager thinking, 'Well, look at this place and look at what we can be'. Hopefully he is here for a long, long time and we can reach those heights again. He deserves all the credit he gets."

The Preston game was all the more special for Elliot as he was handed his first appearance for the club in more than 13 months after suffering a cruciate ligament injury which not only robbed him of club football, but a trip to Euro 2016 with the Republic of Ireland.

A return to the Premier League could prove essential if he is to stand a chance of making it to the World Cup in Russia next summer.

Elliot said with a smile: "I might be getting a little bit ahead of myself after my first game, but that is in the back of my mind.

"I missed the Euros, I was absolutely devastated to miss the Euros. The lads were unbelievable and did the country proud. If I can be involved and can help in any way and if I can get back playing in the Premier League, hopefully it can make up for missing what was a brilliant year of football.

"Let's just hopefully play some games and go from there."

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