Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez backs captain Jamaal Lascelles to continue improving

Rafa Benitez's patience at Newcastle wearing thin as Mike Ashley returns from holiday

Benitez's decision to hand the 24-year-old the captaincy 18 months ago has been vindicated with Lascelles proving an inspirational leader and articulate spokesman for the squad.

Lascelles has recovered from a groin injury which forced him off during the first half of the 3-1 FA Cup win over Luton last week in time for this afternoon's crucial clash at home to Swansea.

Ashley - who had hoped to sell the club by Christmas - yesterday returned from holiday. The 57-year-old has been reluctant to talk about the transfer window in his recent press conferences, though that position could change.

"As soon as I found out Newcastle were interested, there was only one place to go, but obviously I don't want to see them go down, because I want to play against them and I have mates in their team", said Shelvey, signed in January 2016 for £12million. We need to strengthen certain positions.

"We are working (on transfers) but there is no news at the moment".

Benitez admitted he will not allow anyone to leave St James' Park, unless they have a replacement ready to sign.

I have to concentrate on games and Saturday is an important game for us. "So more or less the same".

Newcastle are reported to have a new goalkeeper and a top-class striker at the top of their January wish-list, as well as seeking improvements to their wide areas as Benitez looks to have further versatility within his squad.

"My belief is that we will do what we have to do".

"We have a lot of people working, talking to agents, giving us names and options".

Benitez, however, is adamant that midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, reportedly a target for West Ham United, will not be sold to a rival.

"We're not thinking about selling anyone who's playing, because we need players", said Benitez.

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