By Danny Wright
Ciaran Clark has insisted that Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez has not let his squad become complacent.
Newcastle’s automatic promotion hopes have taken a major dent in recent weeks after a series of less-than-impressive results but the 27-year-old has praised Benitez’s coaching methods in his first season at St. James Park.
Clark was signed from Aston Villa last summer and has been an integral part of the Magpies’ push to return to the Premier League.
However an injury has kept him sidelined for the last six matches, in which his teammates have only picked up two wins and were knocked off the Championship’s top-spot by Brighton.
This has prompted accusations of complacency by pundits and supporters who have noted how the team have slacked off with automatic promotion seemingly sewn up.
“It is a real positive place. We’re all on the training pitch and on match days we have confidence,” said Clark, as quoted by the Chronicle. “You can see that from results and performances we have put it in.
“Rafa Benitez keeps everybody positive and drills into you not to be complacent.
“That is the key really. We have a good bunch of lads here and nobody gets too ahead of themselves.
“We take each game as it comes and work hard on the training ground.”
Clark has made 34 appearances for the Toon across all competitions this season, scoring three goals.
Newcastle have lost 10 games in the Championship but 50 per cent of those have happened while Clark has been absent.
With three games to go, Reading are in hot pursuit of the Tynesiders and are just six points behind them.
Huddersfield, who have a game in hand, are also breathing down Newcastle’s necks but are seven points off the pace.
Brighton secured their promotion to the top flight on Monday after the Terriers were held by Derby.
In other Newcastle news, Benitez has left the training ground deserted with this promotion-saving action.