Newcastle United can retain their Premier League status, but only because of manager Rafa Benitez. That is the deadline day verdict of former defender Darren Peacock. Newcastle recorded their first win of the season against West Ham United at the weekend after a troublesome opening fortnight of the campaign – losing to Nottingham Forest in the League Cup as well as suffering defeats to Tottenham Hotspur and Huddersfield Town. Ahead of what could prove to be a busy final day of the summer window, which closes at 11pm tonight, the quality in Benitez’s squad has been called into question, but Peacock believes the manager’s “tactical nous” will give the Magpies a chance of Premier League survival.
“I think the squad is good enough to stay up, but it is because of the manager” admitted Peacock. “And that’s not taking anything away from the players. “He drills into them what they need to do at every moment on the pitch, and the players have to listen to him and take it on board, because he is a quality manager. That should be enough to keep us up.”
Peacock’s time at St James’s Park was a special era for the club, one where anything seemed possible, ambitions ran wild. Keegan broke the club’s transfer record on six occasions, with the last of those six signings also breaking the world transfer record when United signed Alan Shearer for £15m from Blackburn Rovers. Ambitions, or lack of, are now the talk of Tyneside.
Benitez has signed players described as “a work-in-progress” or his fourth or fifth choice player in his transfer wish-list. That, and merely remaining in the top flight, is not good enough for Newcastle, says Peacock, who joined United March 1994 for a club record £2.7m fee. “It shouldn’t be good enough to just stay up in the Premier League,” he said. “That’s not good enough for this club. It has to be about so much more than just surviving or existing. “Obviously, he does need to build on the squad. It feels like he will take anything he can. “They need to give the supporters a club they deserve”