Ben­itez hails Magpies fans as Ash­ley reign en­ters fi­nal stages

Belfast Telegraph - - SPORT - BY DAMIAN SPELLMAN

NEW­CAS­TLE boss Rafael Ben­itez has thanked the club’s fans for their sup­port af­ter a planned boy­cott was called off amid hope of a takeover deal be­ing struck.

Ty­ne­side has been plunged into a fresh frenzy of spec­u­la­tion since owner Mike Ash­ley re­vealed on Mon­day that he is in ad­vanced talks over a sale and wants it done by the end of the month.

With four in­ter­ested par­ties un­der­stood to have tabled bids in ex­cess of £300m, there is hope that Ash­ley’s con­tro­ver­sial 11 and a half-year reign could soon draw to a close.

With prospec­tive buy­ers cer­tain to be keep­ing a close eye on pro­ceed­ings at St James’ Park, calls for spec­ta­tors to stay away from to­mor­row’s live tele­vised Premier League clash with Wolves have been with­drawn.

Re­lief : Rafa Ben­itez

Ben­itez said: “You have been ask­ing me in a lot of press con­fer­ences about that, and I have to say thank you to the fans be­cause my mes­sage has been very clear all this time.

“This group of play­ers, they de­serve sup­port be­cause they work so hard un­til the last minute in ev­ery game that I think it’s fair for them.

“If the fans ap­pre­ci­ate that, then they want to sup­port the team in the way that they were sup­port­ing be­fore, but even more be­cause ev­ery­body will be even more fo­cused on not wast­ing too much time with these ques­tions and an­swers and if it is af­fect­ing the team or not.

“Hope­fully we can get three points and ev­ery­body will be happy.”

If fans have al­ter­nated be­tween scep­ti­cism and op­ti­mism since Ash­ley’s rev­e­la­tion, Ben­itez has in­sisted that he and his staff will con­tinue to fo­cus on games and prepa­ra­tions for the forth­com­ing Jan­uary trans­fer win­dow, who­ever is at the helm.

He has been linked with an in­ter­est in At­lanta United’s Paraguay mid­fielder Miguel Alm­iron, al­though the MLS club’s pres­i­dent Darren Eales has dis­missed as “laugh­able” sug­ges­tions that the player could join New­cas­tle ei­ther on loan or for as lit­tle as £15mil­lion.

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