Jeff Stelling thinks the Premier League is a better place when Newcastle United are doing well and with Rafa Benitez as manager he is confident they will next season – but he would be happier still if they pushed through a few more signings.
So far the only buy Benitez has made since winning last term’s Championship title was when he turned winger Christian Atsu’s loan from Chelsea into a permanent deal.
But Stelling has faith in the Spaniard to re-establish the Magpies as the club they should be – and the one he thinks most football fans want them to be.
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“It’s a massive football club,” said the Sky Sports presenter who got to see what the mood was like himself when he completed his 15 marathon walks in as many days for Prostate Cancer UK by striding into the home of the Magpies.
“Everyone loves coming to St James’ Park and everybody loves it when the Toon Army goes to their ground as well because they’re fantastic fans.
“Let’s hope this time they’ve got a fantastic team to go with them.
“They’ve got a top manager in Rafa Benitez, somebody I know and I’ve got a lot of time for.
Newcastle were relegated for the top flight last summer for the second time in seven years.
They appointed Benitez as manager in March 2016. The arrival of the former Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Liverpool and Chelsea boss came too slight to stop the slipping into the second tier, but his presence has reinvigorated the club.
Last season Newcastle’s average home attendance was higher in the Football League than it had been in the previous Premier League campaign.
Benitez has been promised he will have big money to spend in this transfer window, but he is still weighing up a number of targets in a variety of positions.
St James’ Park was the last of 40 football grounds the Hartlepool United fan visited on Jeff’s March for Men as he walked from its namesake in Exeter to raise money and awareness for the fight against Prostate Cancer. The route took him over 400 miles.
“I like a statistic on Soccer Saturday but the statistics Prostate Cancer UK gave me I don’t like,” he said. “In the time it took us to go from Durham to Newcastle – about ten hours – ten men in the UK would have died of prostate cancer. It’s a scary thought.
“One of eight of us will get it. One in four if you’re black.”