RAFA BENITEZ has hit back at claims his negativity is to blame for Newcastle’s nightmare start to the season.
Keeper Rob Elliot admitted his side have quickly lost the feelgood factor from clinching the Championship just three months ago as they struggle to adapt to life back in the Premier League.
Benitez has come under fire from pundits after back-to-back Premier League defeats, with his former Liverpool skipper Jamie Carragher and ex-Everton defender Phil Neville critical his downbeat approach.
Ex-Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton joined in the Benitez-baiting – telling the Spaniard to stop moaning and start coaching after owner Mike Ashley failed to live up to his transfer window promises.
But Toon boss Benitez – who brushed off speculation he might be in line to replace West Ham boss Slaven Bilic – dismissed the criticism and accusations that his strained relationship with Sports Direct supremo Ashley is to blame for dragging the mood down.
He insisted the best way to lift spirits at St James’ Park is to start winning games.
“Our approach to games doesn’t depend on if I’m smiling or not,” he said.
“We can win or we can lose, but whether I’m smiling won’t change that. It’s not a question of whether I’m happy or not.
“The main thing is what the players do on the pitch. You can’t be happy if you lose your first two games, you have to be upset. If we win, I will be happy and a couple of wins would make everything more positive.
“It’s a learning process for the players, but I’m quite confident and positive they can do what they need to. The key is to do it sooner rather than later.
“We had a similar start last season with two defeats and I have confidence like I did then that things will improve
“At the moment we are a Premier League team in a bad position. Hopefully we’ll be a Premier League team in a better position soon.”
The 57-year-old has spent £35m on six players this summer, and is hopeful of bringing in at least two more before next week’s deadline.
Newcastle are confident of striking a loan deal for Chelsea Brazilian midfielder Kenedy, and are keen on Samprodia’s attacking Belgian international Dennis Praet.
Benitez must clear the decks before bringing anyone else in as he bids to offload the likes of Jack Colback, Grant Hanley, Manu Riviere, Massadio Haidara, Henri Saivet and Tim Krul.
Newcastle still look desperately short of attacking options after failing to score in defeats to Tottenham and Huddersfield.
Ahead of Nottingham Forest’s visit in the Carabao Cup tonight he added: “We’re working on moving players out and bringing others in.
“We have players who we know will leave in the coming days, but at the moment they’re still here.
“The window has been so difficult that we have too many players around and that’s not an easy situation.
“I think the situation will be 100 per cent different when the window closes at the end of the month because we are expecting more players to come in.”