Newcastle ready to compete despite disappointing summer - Rafa Benitez
Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez is hoping to bridge the financial gap to the Premier League's aristocrats eventually by repeating his heroics at Valencia and Liverpool.
The 57-year-old manager will send the Magpies into battle with Tottenham on Sunday as they resume life back in the big time with the furore over the club's summer transfer activity -- or in his opinion, lack of it -- ongoing.
However, having seen owner Mike Ashley speak publicly about his inability to match the spending power of the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea, Benitez is ready to implement a long-term plan to take the club back to where he believes it belongs on a budget, just as he did earlier in his career.
He said: "At Valencia we were fighting against top sides and doing well. At Liverpool, people said, 'You have to win' but no, when I went there they told me, 'In three years, we want to compete.'
"We won the Champions League and played the Carling Cup final in the first year.
"We can improve, we can compete, we can challenge for things, but not from the beginning. We can't think, 'We have to be there' because it's not the reality now.
"The reality now is that we have a squad with great players, great commitment, but we need to see how we perform in the Premier League.
"Am I happy with what was going on during the summer? No, but I think we can improve and we can compete and we can do the right things -- if we understand where we are.
"We have to be realistic and realistic means every single game for us has to be a final."
By coincidence, Sunday's fixture is a repeat of the last the club faced in the top flight.
On May 15 last year, Spurs, who would finish third in the league, arrived at St James' Park to take on the already relegated Magpies and were trounced 5-1 despite the dismissal of striker Aleksandar Mitrovic.
It was that afternoon that Benitez realised the potential of the club from which he might otherwise have walked away, as he was entitled to do under a clause in his contract at the time.
He said: "I was happy with the club before -- it wasn't the day I fell in love with the club, but it was a massive, massive day for everyone.
"It was the day I was talking with Mike and about the future. That was important in terms of my future."