Rafa laments lack of financial muscle

Rafael Benitez has launched a passionate defence of his Newcastle team as he attempts to end a damaging run of four successive Premier League defeats.

The Magpies head for West Brom tonight still smarting from Saturday’s 3-0 drubbing by Watford at St James’ Park, but with the Spaniard insisting his players are giving him everything.

Benitez was less than impressed with the club’s summer transfer dealings, which left him with a squad he believes is short of many of its competitors, including Huddersfield and Brighton, who came up with them.

However, he is confident he still has enough talent at his disposal to keep them in the top flight.

He said: “The reality is that if you want to sign a striker who can score 20 goals every year, it is £40m (€44.8m). An average striker is £20m (€22.4m) or £30m (€33.6m).

“We didn’t do that, so we are where we are. We have to compete against Huddersfield, Brighton or Burnley, but we couldn’t compete against those clubs and sign the players they were signing. We couldn’t pay the prices they were paying or the wages they were offering.

“This group of players can manage if we stay calm and continue in the same way. Our fans know where we are and why we are here.

“We have had a difficult month. We knew that before. We have 14 points and are in a good position. Are we happy? No, it could be better — but it could be worse. If it gets worse, keep on going.”

A survey of Premier League wages has revealed that Newcastle’s average pay packet is the 15th highest in the division, and Benitez acknowledges the correlation between cash and the quality it buys.

However, he remains convinced there is more to come from his young and inexperienced group of players.

He said: “The fans appreciate that this group of players really care about the shirt and what they are doing.

“We cannot forget that the first of September we were complaining, and all the fans were saying it would be a difficult season.

“We are 14th in the league and in a good position. What is our target? What do we want to achieve? To stay in the Premier League. Nobody was saying it was going to be easy.”

Tonight’s game is expected to be Gary Megson’s last in charge of West Brom.

The 58-year-old has been overseeing first team affairs since Tony Pulis was sacked a week ago and he guided the Baggies to a creditable 1-1 draw against Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday.

He will carry on in the role while the club search for a new manager, with former Newcastle and Crystal Palace boss Alan Pardew a leading candidate to succeed Pulis after holding talks with West Brom over the weekend.

It remains to be seen if any prospective new man will be in the stands against Newcastle but the club are hoping to make an appointment before Palace visit the Hawthorns on Saturday.

“I’ve absolutely no idea what’s happening on that front. I’m just doing this as long as I am told,” said Megson.

“All I’m thinking about is the Newcastle game. I haven’t really given it any thought. We’ll just have to wait and see.”



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