Rob Elliot says Rafa Benitez arrival has motivated Newcastle's players, and wants him to stay

Benitez's reign could be a short one if Newcastle don't avoid the drop.

Newcastle United goalkeeper Rob Elliot has admitted he was surprised by the appointment of Rafa Benitez as the club's new manager, but has said the players are motivated by his arrival.

The Spaniard didn't get off to the best of starts in charge of his new club as he lost his first game in charge 1-0 to league leaders Leicester City on Monday night, but it seems that he has had a positive effect on the playing staff since arriving at the club.

Elliot is quoted in the Northern Echo, saying: "If you'd said to me a couple of weeks ago that Rafa would be our manager, I'd have probably laughed. But he's here and it's a fantastic opportunity for the players and this football club to move forward with him in charge.

"We just need to make sure that, one, we stay in the division, and two, that he's our manager for the next few years to build and take us to where we want to be.

"It's been great to have him on board. We haven't had too much time to work with him yet because he's just arrived, but his experience speaks for itself. It's been exciting and motivating for the players to have someone like the gaffer to come in.

"Just look at his calibre. He's just left Real Madrid. We're all aware that we need to work hard and listen to what he asks us to do so we can climb up the table as quickly as possible.”

Some have suggested the Spaniard's lack of experience when it comes to a relegation battle may count against him but the appointment at least states some kind of ambition that in and around the relegation zone beyond this season is not where they want to be. They want to survive this season and then kick on the following campaign.

This weekend's game against fierce rivals Sunderland could go along way to determining Newcastle's fate, and whether Benitez will stay beyond this season - as it has been made public that he has a clause in his contract that allows him to leave the club should they be relegated this season.

A win over Sunderland could take them out of the bottom three. They currently trail their rivals by a point, and will be determined to put an end to their woeful recent record in Tyne/Wear derby matches, having lost each of the last six against the Black Cats. 

They have eight other games after this weekend to show they are good enough to be in the top flight next season. If they do survive, it could be one of the most interesting and pivotal summers for the club going into the subsequent campaign.

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