Rafa Benitez believes he has an opportunity to “think big” at Newcastle United - and is determined to win silverware on Tyneside, but only once he has finished rebuilding the club from the bottom up.
The Spaniard signed a redrawn three-year deal in the summer to remain at St James’ Park despite the Magpies’ relegation, and insists he did so because Newcastle have all the component parts necessary to return to former glories.
United’s recent record in the FA Cup is appalling: they have failed to progress past the fourth round during Mike Ashley’s ownership and have not won a game in the competition since 2012, the worst run in their history.
But Benitez stresses he will always take cups seriously during his Tyneside tenure.
“It’s a tricky question because we are in the FA Cup and we have to get further,” Benitez said ahead of Newcastle’s trip to St Andrew’s to take on Birmingham City in the FA Cup third round when he was asked if he was targeting trophies with the Magpies.
“Obviously I want to win trophies. I want to promote and I want to win as many games as we can.
“It is a question of time. It’s not that I want to do it so I can do it now.
“No, we need some time.
“The reason why I’m here is because you can think big. It’s not that we’re thinking small.
“Obviously for me it is important, because if you go to a small team which has little history and no expectation it is not the same.
“But if you go to a top side then you know it’s a big club.
“But to go where we want to be, you must go one step at a time.
“So I want to go from where we are to the very top. Big clubs can have problems thinking about where they want to be too soon.
“No, we must think about where we are now and then try to get back to our level - but one step at a time.
“We don’t know where we are in terms of the steps. We have a massive stadium, with a huge number of fans.
“So we are not on the first step, but we are not where we were.
“We can get there just by doing the right things.”
Only Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool have appeared in more FA Cup finals than Newcastle, yet the Magpies’ recent record in the competition is deplorable.
For Benitez - who lifted the trophy with Liverpool in 2006 - history will not affect the outcome of the third-round tie at St Andrew’s though.
He is determined to win the competition on Tyneside at some point but, because promotion is the primary aim this season, Benitez knows he must rotate his squad in this competition.
“I want to be sure we can try and win but I will not kill my players because we have to try and go one round up,” Benitez added.
“We could have been playing against Man United in a two-legged semi-final in the EFL Cup.
“Can you do it, with your squad? Because they can play 10 different players and still be stronger than you.
“This is the big difference.
“How will you approach this FA Cup round in the Premier League with a very good squad? It’s different if you’re in the Championship and have to get promoted.
“It’s totally different.
“I have a squad that I want to use and I want to protect them, too, because I know what it means when you’re not playing regularly and then have to play.
“I will put out a team that compete and do well. My idea is to do well in every competition.
“[Aleksandar] Mitrovic has to play because [Dwight] Gayle is playing too many games and Mitrovic has to play.
“I’m not expecting him to run more than Gayle and score five goals, I’m expecting him to give everything.
“For me, it’s about thinking about the big picture.
“We need to be as strong as we can as a team and a squad and you need players who are not playing to give everything.”