Benitez runs rule over returning stars

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Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez has said that he is running the rule over all the club’s potential first team stars during pre-season.

The Magpies returned to action on Friday with their first pre-season fixture as they took on Scottish Premiership side Heart of Midlothian at Tynecastle Park.

Dwight Gayle showed the same form he demonstrated to fire Newcastle to the Championship title last season, putting Hearts to the sword and finishing with a brace during their 2-1 win.

In a team which saw experience mixed with youth, there were a couple of notable names returning to both in the starting XI and the substitutes bench.

Siem de Jong started the match after a loan spell at PSV Eindhoven last season, while Henri Saivet and Adam Armstrong also got a run out in the second half after time away from St James’ Park.

Speaking after the match, Benitez claimed that he was running the rule over each and every one of his players during pre-season, especially those who are new or have been away, to see if anything has changed about their approach, and see if they are worthy of a place in the first team.

He told the Chronicle after the game: “You always have to see if players have improved or if they have changed something – or if they have grown.

“It is an opportunity to see everyone. The team was composed. We needed to score goals and we did it.”

The returning players all impressed, with it being de Jong’s through ball which set Gayle up for his opening goal, while Saivet also threatened the Hearts defence after his time at St Etienne.

Newcastle’s next senior friendly match sees them travel to Deepdale to take on Preston North End a week on Saturday.

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