By Coral Barry
Steve Howey believes the first thing on Rafael Benitez’s agenda will be to sit down with each Newcastle player and find out who wants to stay at St James’ Park.
Newcastle announced this week that Benitez would be staying on as manager despite the Magpies’ relegation into the Championship and former defender Howey is convinced the Spaniard’s first port of call will be to cull his squad of the players who might wish they were elsewhere.
Howey, who came through Newcastle’s academy to make almost 200 appearances for the club, believes it is vital that Benitez clips his squad and suggested that his current crop has too many average players on huge salaries.
“I think he needs to sit down with a lot of players and see which of them want to stay because there is no point keeping a player who doesn’t want to be there,” said Howey speaking to the Chronicle.
“But the difficult thing is we have players that are not suited to the Championship, and are probably not good enough for the Premier League, yet are on fantastic amounts of money.
“So, it will be an interesting one for him to sort out.”
Newcastle ended a miserable season with an empathic 5-1 victory over Tottenham on the final day of the season, just days after arch rivals Sunderland had condemned them to relegation.
The result against fourth placed Spurs was little consolation to the fans, but Howey believes Benitez could have a vital role in lifting the club’s spirits, not unlike Kevin Keegan did when he first took over.
Keegan was named manager in 1992 with the club struggling in the Second Division and would eventually led Newcastle back into the top flight and transform them into title contenders.
The former England defender said: “We’ve seen them [perform] and that’s why it’s so frustrating.
“How they came through a season with so many poor performances and then beat Tottenham 5-1, a side who could have finished second but as a result came third.
“He [Benitez] will want it all sorted so he can get down to see who can be moved on, who can be brought in, and who wants to be here.
“He might get some decent players because this is Newcastle United at the end of the day and he is Rafa Benitez, and he could have the same effect Kevin Keegan had.”