Belfast Telegraph

Olivier Bernard confident Rafael Benitez can keep Newcastle up

Former Newcastle defender Olivier Bernard is confident new manager Rafael Benitez can keep the club up despite the "late" decision to sack Steve McClaren.

The 55-year-old Spaniard accepted the challenge of preserving the club's Barclays Premier League status with just 10 games of the season to go on Friday, and Bernard believes he is the right man for the job.

He said: "At the minute, he is the best manager we can get, so getting him is a good statement from Newcastle because that means they believe firmly he is the best man and we as a club are trying our hardest to stay in the Premier League.

"It's a late shout, but I believe he can change it. You need man-management to be able to get out of that situation and he is the best man at the present time to come and change things in the dressing room."

Benitez met his players at the training ground within an hour of the official announcement that he had replaced the sacked McClaren, and he and his staff will now get down to work and prepare the squad for Monday evening's difficult trip to leaders Leicester.

The club has won just one of its last six league games and sits second bottom in the table, a point from safety.

However, Bernard, who admitted McClaren's position had become untenable after last Saturday's 3-1 home defeat by Bournemouth, is hopeful that there is enough quality within a squad which has been boosted by £82million worth of additions in the last two transfer windows to escape the drop.

Asked if there are enough goals in the team to secure salvation, he said: "The lack of goals comes from the lack of organisation and system.

"I think the players at the club are good enough to win games, and they show glimpses every now and then. But it has just not been good enough when it comes to doing it regularly in the Premier League.

"Players need to take responsibility on the pitch. The manager puts out an XI and tells them what to do, but he can't play for them. The players need to look at themselves and be better.

"But at the same time, when you look at the way Newcastle have been playing, you don't feel like they have had any guidance and you don't think there was any system and I don't think there was any identity on the pitch, so it's very, very difficult to play.

"It's a combination of the two, the manager and the players."


From Belfast Telegraph