RAFAEL BENITEZ is revelling in his relationship with Newcastle United’s fans, with a giant banner unfurled ahead of today’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool underlining the strength of the bond between the Magpies manager and his support base at St James’ Park.

Prior to kick-off, Newcastle supporters in the Gallowgate End hoisted a giant flag bearing Benitez’s image, along with a lengthy statement in Spanish. The message read: “We follow you everywhere, we’ll always have your back. For all their lies we will never doubt you, we are with you.”

The quotation was first relayed to Benitez during his time at Valencia, but it has assumed added poignancy given the Spaniard’s fractious relationship with Newcastle owner Mike Ashley and managing director Lee Charnley following a difficult transfer window.

The fans clearly back Benitez above those in the boardroom, and their loyalty and support is reciprocated. The Newcastle boss cited his relationship with the fans as one of the key factors behind his decision to remain with the Magpies when they were relegated, and for all that he continues to be linked with a potential future vacancy at West Ham United, he would clearly find it difficult to walk away from his current role.

“The banner said they support me, they will be with me and they trust me,” said Benitez, who was also serenaded by the Liverpool supporters high in the Leazes End. “I was really pleased because the relationship is very good and today it was with both fans, so I’m very pleased.

“It is not what you are expecting when you go to a club, but if you give everything, the fans give you everything. It is not just me, it is the way they are behind the team - they give the team an extra five per cent.”

That extra five per cent was required this afternoon as Newcastle repelled a Liverpool team who dominated possession, but who were restricted to only a handful of genuine goalscoring opportunities.

Content to sit deep and pack their own penalty area, the Magpies dug in impressively as they claimed the point that lifted them up to ninth position, only two points and two places behind their opponents.

“I wasn’t happy with the result against Huddersfield and Brighton, I thought we deserved more, so when you play against one of the top teams who are creating a lot of chances against everyone, while a point at home isn’t the best, against a team like Liverpool, you have to be happy,” said Benitez.

“They had the possession, we had to play counter-attack, and we can be a little bit better in the way we play that way. We knew every one of their attacking players was dangerous, and it is impossible to stop them all of the time, but the lads did a great job and maybe with a bit more composure on the ball, we could have scored another goal.”

Ashley was not at St James’ Park, but the presence of businesswoman Amanda Staveley in the directors’ box was another strong indicator that attempts to sell Newcastle United are continuing apace.

The last week has seen mounting interest from a number of parties in China, and at least one Chinese consortium are understood to have signed a non-disclosure agreement enabling them to stage more detailed talks about a potential investment into the Magpies.

However, Ashley’s representatives have not only been focusing on the Far East, and Staveley’s appearance on Tyneside suggests Middle Eastern avenues are also being explored.

Staveley, who hails from North Yorkshire and is the daughter of the founder of the Lightwater Valley theme park, is a financier who heads a Middle Eastern investment group worth an estimated £28bn.

She was involved in Sheikh Mansour’s takeover of Manchester City in September 2008, and would be an ideal deal-broker for any group based in the United Arab Emirates looking to launch a buy-out bid on Tyneside.