By North-east correspondent Harry Sykes
Rafael Benitez is convinced that Dwight Gayle can prove his critics wrong and spearhead Newcastle’s return to the Premier League.
The Magpies signed the forward from Crystal Palace on Friday morning on a five-year deal for around £10million, as they completed a whirlwind round of new signings that also included £5million goalkeeper Mats Sels and £12million winger Matt Ritchie.
Gayle’s former manager Neil Warnock questioned earlier on Tuesday whether the 25-year-old has the versatility to thrive at St James’ Park.
But Benitez has thrown his weight behind the pacy striker, who scored 26 goals in 74 appearances during his three seasons at Palace.
“It was important for me that we could bring in players that could understand English football,” said Benitez, as quoted by the Shields Gazette. “The Championship is quite difficult. They understand what it means to play here and the physicality and intensity of the game.
“With him (Gayle), it’s the pace, movement and finishing he can give to us. I think we have a good addition. He can increase the competition.”
Gayle, who joined Palace in 2013 from Peterborough for a fee of £6million, was managed by Warnock when he was in charge at Selhurst Park.
“He was glad I left because I never picked him,” ex-Palace boss Warnock told the Alan Brazil programme on talkSPORT on Tuesday morning. “I couldn’t find a system for him.
“It’ll be interesting to see what they (Newcastle) do as they’ve spent a lot of money on him, £10million, apparently.”
Benitez has added Gayle to a forward roster that already includes the likes of Papiss Cisse, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ayoze Perez.
In other Newcastle news, Benitez has been hit by a high profile snub after his offer was rejected.