Cardiff boss Neil Warnock says his feud with Rafael Benitez is over and that the Spaniard is the one man Newcastle cannot afford to lose.
The pair, who cross Premier League swords on Saturday, fell out when Benitez played a weakened Liverpool team ahead of the Champions League final at Fulham on the penultimate weekend of the 2006/07 season.
Fulham won 1-0 and the Cottagers’ victory helped relegate Warnock’s Sheffield United and sparked a war of words, and even the threat of legal action, between the two men.
“Funnily enough I was talking to (former Liverpool striker) Craig Bellamy at the academy this morning,” Warnock said at his pre-match press conference.
“He played in that game and he was telling me how they had three days off before and the other lads weren’t bothered either.
“It’s all water under the bridge now, life’s too short. I’ve got to enjoy this now.
“If you’d have told me when I first came in that we would be playing Rafa’s side with a full house, it’s incredible.”
Benitez’s position has been the subject of much scrutiny this summer due to the lack of investment in the squad at St James’ Park.
Warnock questions criticism of Newcastle’s spending, but he does admit that Benitez’s future is crucial to them moving in the right direction.
“The one person Newcastle can’t afford to lose is Rafa,” Warnock said.
“They can get away with losing any player, but his commitment to Newcastle has been fantastic.
“He’s in his last year now, so it’ll be interesting to see how that develops because I’m sure worldwide he will be targeted.
“But if you look at their squad and their players, they’ve improved from last year – and they finished 10th last year.
“So I don’t know where they could improve really. I think Mike Ashley (Newcastle owner) is an easy target, everyone blames him.”
Cardiff lost their Premier League opener at Bournemouth 2-0 last week and created few chances.
But Warnock, who is expected to hand loan signing Harry Arter his debut and is waiting on the fitness of striker Kenneth Zohore, insists his newly-promoted squad will be competitive.
“We’ve nothing to be afraid of,” he said.
“We had to improve the team from last week and we can do that, we’ve got lads to come in and others getting fit.
“The next couple of games will show us more. But we were in the game right until the end at Bournemouth, and despite the criticism I was quite pleased with it.”
Cardiff are expecting over 30,000 for their first home game in the Premier League for over four years.
“I’m in the game for days like this, I’ve got goose-pimples thinking about it now,” Warnock said.
“That noise, looking around the stadium, a packed house. It’s fantastic and I’m honoured to be the manager.
“It’s a two-way thing now and I want to repay the fans by having some enjoyment.”
Know more about Sport360 Application