By Russell Edge

13th May, 2018 | 7:40pm

'Pantomime villain' Ashley issues major statement on future - raves over Newcastle trio

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has been left raving over manager Rafael Benitez, captain Jamaal Lascelles and the Toon Army in a statement on the future of the club.

The Magpies secured a 10th placed finish in their first season back in the Premier League with a mightily impressive 3-0 win over Chelsea, and the focus will now turn to the summer transfer window.

After seeing his side pick up the three points at St James’ Park, Ashley, who tends to remain silent on issues at the club, has released a major statement over the club’s future, insisting that Benitez will be backed by every penny the club makes and that he is desperate to keep the Spaniard this summer.

Writing on the club’s official website, he said: “I would like to thank Rafa Benitez for his magnificent achievement this season. I would also like to applaud the players, led fantastically by the captain Jamaal Lascelles.

“On many occasions throughout the season they have been described as a Championship side, which I personally consider to be derogatory.

“Rafa, as always, has my full support, and contrary to some media reports that portray me as a pantomime villain, I will continue to ensure that every penny generated by the club is available to him. I hope very much that Rafa will remain at Newcastle United.

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“Finally, I would like to thank the fans for their unrivalled support of Rafa and the team throughout the season.”

Football Insider verdict

Those from the outside the club might take Ashley’s comments as genuinely heartfelt but there will be a sense of trepidation from the Newcastle faithful as the Sports Direct supremo opens his mouth for the first time in months. The comments on the money Benitez will be handed this summer will certainly come under much scrutiny as it mirrors the statement he made 12 months ago, a promise which many supporters feel was broken. Still, the Toon Army will be desperate that he sticks to his word over backing the Spaniard and that he can get the former Liverpool boss to commit his long term future at St James’ Park, with his contract expiring next summer. He must finally realise just how lucky he is to have him as manager, after working a miracle to secure a top 10 finish with a team built primarily of players who were playing in the Championship last season.

In other Newcastle United news, the club could seal a deal for a top flight revelation “soon”.

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