Rafa Benitez explains how Dwight Gayle claimed the number 9 shirt

Crystal Palace’s Dwight Gayle celebrates scoring their third goal

The number is firmly established as part of the folklore of Newcastle United.

Newcastle manager Rafael BenitezNewcastle manager Rafael Benitez

Rafa Benitez has explained how Newcastle United decided which forward would receive the number nine shirt ahead of the new season, in comments appearing in the Shields Gazette.

Dwight Gayle, the recent signing from Crystal Palace, has been given the iconic number famously worn by the likes of Alan Shearer and Jackie Milburn.

He is set to wear it in Friday's match against Fulham at Craven Cottage.

Crystal Palace’s Dwight Gayle celebrates scoring their third goalDwight Gayle celebrates scoring for Crystal Palace

Some were surprised that the 25-year-old got the shirt ahead of Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, but Benitez explained the role the former Anderlecht man had in the decision making process.

"We were going to organise a finishing competition for the No9," Benitez told the Shields Gazette. "In the end Mitro was telling him to take the No9.

Newcastle United's Aleksandar Mitrovic and Bournemouth's Sylvain Distin in actionNewcastle United's Aleksandar Mitrovic and Bournemouth's Sylvain Distin in action

"If they both score both will be important. The atmosphere is good, it’s good for them to both want it but after talking with them it was easy.

"They understand the main thing is to score goals and be on the pitch."

It is a nice gesture from Mitrovic, who is suspended for the first few matches of the season. The 21-year-old will instead continue with the 45 shirt he wore in his debut season at St James's Park, having also sported it at both Anderlecht and Partizan Belgrade.

Gayle will be be upgrading from the number 16 he wore at Selhurst Park, taking over the shirt that was worn by Papiss Cisse in recent seasons. 

If Gayle can be anywhere near as successful as the club's top forwards he'll certainly be a Tyneside favourite, and he can make a decent start in the Championship opener against the Cottagers.

Dwight Gayle celebrates with Joel Ward (C) and Damien Delaney (L) after scoring the second goal for Crystal PalaceDwight Gayle celebrates with Joel Ward (C) and Damien Delaney (L) after scoring the second goal for Crystal Palace

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