By Alex Taylor

Newcastle star Grant Hanley has praised Rafa Benitez after claiming the Spanish manager has fostered a competitive spirit at St James’ Park this season.

Hanley, 24, arrived from Blackburn Rovers for £6million this summer and has seen the Magpies take 22 points from 11 games this term.

Benitez has chopped and changed his starting XI throughout the season to good effect, allowing players in-form the chance to shine in the club’s first-team.

“We have a big squad and have players who are itching to play, Hanley told Chronicle Live. “It’s good and competitive.

“The lads have done well so far so hopefully, we can carry it on.”

The Tynesiders now sit just three points off league-leaders Huddersfield in the Championship.

Hanley is the perfect model of the former Napoli managers rotation policy at Newcastle, the defender has played just four games this season, scoring one goal.

Benitez’s side have now gone four games unbeaten in all competitions after Saturday’s 1-0 win against Rotherham at the New York Stadium.

The former Real Madrid boss was at the helm as the Toon were relegated to England’s second-tier last season but has already set-about reinvigorating the former Premier League outfit.

In the latest Newcaslte news, fans have congratulated their young star Callum Roberts on Twitter after the winger was called up to England’s under-20 squad.