It was almost a joke when Newcastle would always finish top of the Premier League injury table every year.
And things got worse when Mike Ashley arrived, and he wanted a small squad to keep the costs of Newcastle under control.
That only magnified the problem because we would be short of players as soon as some of the top players were injured or suspended.
All that changed almost magically when Rafa Benitez appeared on the scene on Friday, March 11, 2016,
When Rafa arrived we had 13 injuries – today we have one – with Sean Longstaff out with his knee ligament injury but with the good news that he’s recovering more quickly than expected.
Rafa Benitez – 13 injuries when he first arrived
Lack of injuries has been the case at Newcastle for the last three seasons, and Rafa has most of his squad to choose from in each game.
What was a mystery to previous managers was clear to Rafa, and he had the old 3G technology training pitches replaced with 4G technology in the summer of 2016.
4G surfaces are defined as artificial grass, like 3G, but without the need for rubber crumbing and the surface is much easier to play on with a more cushioning effect: less stress on the body.
Rafa also brought in two coaches especially to deal with preventing injuries and helping players recover more quickly once injuries were picked up.
It’s a massive turnaround with injuries and Rafa doesn’t always get enough credit for what he did.
But that’s what a world-class manager with an excellent staff can get done very quickly at a club.
This is what Rafa has said about what’s different at Newcastle now than when he arrived, and he talks about injuries in the Chronicle today:
“It’s not the same and I will tell you why. When we just arrived, we had 13 injuries, something that you couldn’t see,”
“I remember that we had to play with Vurnon Anita as a left full-back, and after with Jack Colback, because we didn’t have a left full-back or a holding midfielder.”
“We had to manage and I think we were unlucky because we played against Sunderland and Norwich very early after I joined.”
“If you had more time, maybe we could have approached these games with more options.”
“Now almost everybody is fit, and we have some players that now have some experience in the Premier League.”
“When we first came we had too many injuries and it wasn’t our team yet.”
Players are returning from International duty now (with no injuries), and it seems we will have an almost clean bill of health for Monday’s game at the Emirates.