Rafa made 8 changes to the side last Saturday that had started at Birmingham in the previous game in the FA Cup.
And last night he made another 8 changes to the side that beat Brentford 2-1 on Saturday and Rafa started three of Newcastle’s top young players last night against Birmingham – Dan Barlasar, Yasin Ben El-Mhanni and Stuart Findlay.
He gave debuts to all three youngsters – a courageous move by the manager – and it paid off with a good 3-1 win.
Good friends Rafa Benitez and Gianfranco Zola – before the game
But Rafa seemed to know exactly what he was doing and the lads all had solid games – and they will be a lot better for the experience in front of just less than 35,000 fans at St. James’ Park.
It also sends a positive message to all the youngsters at Newcastle – you will get your chance in the first team if you work hard in training and play well in the U23 team.
This is what Rafa said after the game:
“I can see us going for the next game against Oxford trying to do well. The cup competition in England is always difficult. We will try to go through.”
“When you try to play any team at this stage of the competition then it will be difficult.” “Hopefully we will have more players coming back, and we can manage it better.”
“It is always important to win any game, in any competition. We are happy to go through and we will try to continue. If we can carry on we will try.”
“But I don’t want to lie, we will use the squad because we need to protect players and we will try to beat Oxford.”
“We knew we had to make changes, the problem is we lost four players in the last few games and because of the Africa Cup of Nations so we had to use the squad.”
“It was important to win but also important to use the squad.”
“It was important for the young players, important for the Academy players, all the staff to see some players in the first team.”
“A big plus for the players and for the Academy system here.”
“The happiest man will be Barlaser because it is his birthday (20 years old), he will remember it all of his life.”
“It is important for them to work hard and after the three of them worked hard, they are part of this team to win the game.”
“I was speaking with Lee Charnley before the game.”
“Hopefully he is working this evening and he will give me a surprise in a few hours, a few days.”
“We will keep working.”
Jonjo Shelvey had an excellent game and he sprayed passes all over the place as if he had never been away – this man is some player for Newcastle these days.
And Rafa will continue to use the squad, as he gets all the players more match fit for the run-in to the Championship.
It was an excellent win for us last night – but now all that matters is beating Rotherham United at home on Saturday and staying top of the league.
There’s a good game on Friday night as Brighton & Hove Albion entertain an in-form Sheffield Wednesday side.
Howay The Lads!!