Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce admits he was surprised when old foe Rafael Benitez accepted the challenge of trying to revive Newcastle.
The Black Cats’ North East rivals staged something of a coup to land the Spaniard, who started the season in charge at Real Madrid, as Steve McClaren’s replacement and his appointment was not something Allardyce expected.
Asked if he was surprised, he replied: “I have to say I was quite surprised, yes, but obviously being a football man, he wanted to get back in and he sees Newcastle as a good opportunity.
“I have nothing against any foreign manager coming in and pitting their wits against us in the Premier League because it’s the biggest brand and the biggest league in the world.
“But from Steve’s point of view, I felt sorry for him and of course another English manager bites the dust. There are only three of us left now – there’s only me, Alan Pardew and Eddie Howe left now, so that’s a great shame.
“But pitting your wits against some of the best coaches in Europe is always a challenge and Rafa is one of those, I don’t think anybody would argue with that.
“We are getting Pep Guardiola, we have got Jurgen Klopp, we have still got Arsene Wenger and people like that, so we are enticing the best coaches in the world to come and work here, so it’s always a great challenge as a manager to be going against them and trying to get your team better than theirs to beat them.”