Newcastle United boosted their survival chances after securing back-to-back English Premier League victories against highflying Watford and Bournemouth, and they head into the international break a point and three places above the drop zone.
The Magpies had earlier lost seven and drawn three of their opening 12 games of 2018-19, and there were whispers manager Rafa Benitez’s job was under huge threat.
However, it doesn’t seem the Spaniard was under any pressure at any point in time, and Scottish forward Matt Ritchie has revealed that he was rather unfazed.
“That’ one of his best qualities, how calm he is in all situations, the 29-year-old told talkSPORT.
“I think the bigger picture is definitely something he takes into account and the way he stays so calm. We’d gone ten games without a win at the start of the season, it’s a stressful period for everyone involved but the manager is the leader of that.
“He always believed in us and the players believe in themselves as well. Hopefully we’ve come through that now and we can kick on.”
Given his huge managerial experience, a relegation scare is the last thing that will unnerve Benitez, and that he maintained his cool during the earlier woeful shouldn’t have come as a surprise to many.
He helped Extremadura to Spanish top-flight promotion in 1997 and kept them there the following season despite all odds and having to battle the drop all-campaign.
Benitez’s future at Saint James’ Park remains uncertain, though, as he is yet to put pen to paper for a contract extension.
The 58-year-old signed an initial three-year deal in March 2016, and with his contract due to run out at the end of the season, it remains to be seen what the future holds.
The unwillingness of Newcastle owner Mike Ashley to invest in transfers is the major reason why Benitez has delayed signing a new contract, and whatever happens during the January transfer window could end up determining if he will stay or not.