Newcastle owner Ashley eager for Benitez to stay

Michael Keane of Everton during the Premier League match between Everton and Southampton at Goodison Park

Michael Keane of Everton during the Premier League match between Everton and Southampton at Goodison Park

Lascelles signed a new six-year deal in October, and Benitez is keen to keep him at St James's Park.

Manager Sam Allardyce wants to bolster his defence as his side have conceded the most goals of any side in the top half this season.

"I'm a Newcastle player, I'm happy here, I'm the captain and things are going really well". This was my first season in the Premier League, it was about surviving and we have done that.

"The fans, they have ambitions, we have ambitions".

"When you're flicking through Twitter or people say there's rumours about this, that and the other you're aware of it but I don't take any notice".

One ray of sunshine though has threatened to banish the rainy days that surrounded us under Ashley and even with the danger of storm clouds looming in the distance, these have been kept at bay by the growing proof that Rafa Benitez's project does look like it has the potential to bear fruit.

While Lascelles has still shown he can be caught out of position or make an occasional mistake, like any player, overall his displays at the top level have earned him the recognition of Champions League clubs.

"I would like to thank Rafa Benitez for his magnificent achievement this season", he said.

He said: "Hopefully the manager stays, that's the main thing for me".

"It's massive he stays".

"We were all working together to achieve what we wanted to achieve, which is success for the club".

Plenty of room for optimism BUT only if Rafa Benitez stays AND is backed properly.

"As players, we've got to cross the white line but we follow instructions from somewhere, and that's the gaffer".

They also know Chelsea need to win if they are to stand any chance of making the Champions League, something he recognises as a key priority for the Blues from his own brief spell at Stamford Bridge.

"For sure, we didn't play a good game, but from the start, Newcastle outplayed us in many aspects", said Conte. "Once we have got this game out of the way then we can focus on what direction he wants us to go".

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