WHEREVER Rafael Benitez has worked during his managerial career, he has always strived to forge a bond between what happens on the pitch and what happens off it. During his time at Newcastle United, that is no different.

Even though his time at Newcastle has been filled with highs and lows, at the end of his initial three-year contract at St James’ Park next summer he will know he did what was required to enjoy a strong link with the fans.

Benitez remains adored on Tyneside, even if there has been increased scrutiny of some of his decisions during the 11-match winless start to the season which finally came to an end with a win over Watford last weekend.

And if that result is to prove the starting point of a revival in the months ahead, he knows having the fans on side and behind the team will be as crucial as it has been throughout his spell in the North-East.

While there may well have been issues with the boardroom that have cropped up along the way, the togetherness and feeling of unity between manager, player and fans has been an enormous factor in the success he has enjoyed without having the sort of cash his Premier League counterparts have had to spend.

Benitez was at the club’s Foundation Dinner this week to mingle with supporters and sponsors, in another move to highlight how he thinks it is key for him to attend such events.

He said: “I always have the feeling that the squad, not just the team, is really important. It is not just the 11 players, it is the whole of the squad. But then after that, the relationship with the city and the community is just as important.

“The relationship with the fans is crucial. I am not a manager that will be jumping around the touchline if we score a goal, but I like to be involved in everything and I like to have this feeling from the fans.

“When you go on the streets, someone is always coming up to tell you this or that, and I like that. OK, maybe you need some time to yourself to relax at some stage, but I think it is important to have a relationship between the club and the fans.

“These type of things (Foundation Awards) help that a lot. We had a Foundation in Liverpool and were able to help people a lot. We do that here at Newcastle too and it is important that the club does that.

“The job that the Foundation is doing now is amazing – in the end, so many people will benefit from that, and that is really important.”

Throughout his time at Newcastle he has drawn comparisons with Liverpool, where he is still admired and hugely appreciated for his six years there.

As well as steering the Reds to the Champions League in 2005, he was always a big supporter in the battle to seek justice for the families of the 96 Liverpool fans who died in the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.

Benitez recalls his time at Anfield fondly and he knows the love of the game from the Geordies is also strong, not least because it is also a single club city in the North-East of England.

“There are similarities to the way the two clubs are regarded in their city, but I will not just say Liverpool because in Liverpool, Everton are also doing a great job with their community work too,” said Benitez.

“Any club at this level has a responsibility to help their local community. These are massive clubs, so when you try to do something, a lot of people will follow you.

“There are a lots of great examples of that, where we have helped a lot of people. It is not difficult, and it is fantastic for the community.”

Benitez spoke at length on Tuesday at the event, and such is his character he would do the same time and time again. He was joined by a number of his players, including Ayoze Perez who scored the winner against Watford last weekend. Staying up, clearly, helps the profile of Newcastle.

“I know from experience how important it is to have the right profile and publicity, and the right people around,” said Benitez. “If you are in the Premier League, you have more stars, more people who can be seen on the TV, and they can help attract more people to support and help with the community work. That helps the Foundation, and everything is better and more successful when you are in the Premier League.

“I think the job that the Foundation is doing is great. They have been going for the last ten years, and they have done a massive job with helping people in the city.

“There is a lot of support from the club, and you can see a lot of positive things when you talk about this kind of event. I think it is really good for the city, and really good for the club. It is a good way that you can see us working together.

“I think this is something the club does well. There are so many people that need help, and when you have a massive club like this one, supporting and helping people, then in the end that has to be positive.”

* Benitez was speaking at Newcastle United’s Foundation Dinner on Tuesday night which celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Foundation. Award winners on the night were:

Young Learner award: Olly McKenna (presented by Federico Fernandez); Young Leader award: Ismael Bamba (presented by Martin Dubravka); Disability Footballer award: Sam McVie (presented by Rafa Benitez); Disability Footballer award – highly commended: Chloe French (presented by Rafa Benitez); Alder Sweeney award: Newcastle Fans Foodbank (presented by Ayoze Perez); Adult Learner award: Alex Leigh (presented by Shola Ameobi).