RAFA BENITEZ thinks Mike Ashley returning to St James’ Park would be a “positive” for the club as the Newcastle United manager prepares to discuss a transfer strategy that could determine his long-term future.

Ashley attended his first Newcastle match since May last year when he visited Selhurst Park last Saturday to witness a goalless draw with Crystal Palace.

It was a point that has increased the focus on this Saturday’s game with Leicester City on Tyneside because the Magpies are still waiting for the elusive first win that has prevented them from climbing out of the bottom three.

Ashley’s appearance last weekend has raised suggestions that he could make a surprise return to St James’ to watch the Leicester game, although there has been no word on that either way.

Benitez would welcome such a move by the Sports Direct chief, knowing the Spaniard could do with the club’s owner backing him with greater financial muscle on the transfer front.

The Newcastle boss would like to have an increased transfer kitty in the New Year as well as he would like to see investment in the club’s training facilities. If those were forthcoming he might extend a contract that is due to expire next summer.

Benitez said: “If the owner wants to be around, that is positive, it has to be positive. I don’t see any problem with that because it means that he cares and is supporting the team. Hopefully that will be the case in the next weeks and months.”

While Benitez, who didn’t meet up with Ashley at Palace, has spoken to managing director Lee Charnley this week and there is a transfer summit scheduled after the Leicester game.

He said: “I met (head of recruitment) Steve (Nickson), I met Lee at different times, but just talking about in general everything.

“We will have this meeting with the scouts just to be sure that we know what we are looking for, and that’s it. It’s not a special meeting, it’s just a normal meeting.”

Newcastle did manage to bring in a number of players during the summer, including adding Salomon Rondon and Yoshinori Muto to his attacking ranks.

Joselu, who arrived the previous summer, has also had his fair share of chances too, and has come under fire for failing to cause enough trouble in the opponents' penalty area.

Benitez has defended his compatriot by reminding everyone of the progress Newcastle have made under his watch.

He said: "In football you have short memories in general. The fans, they have to realise that we were in the Championship; we were in the Premier League, we were relegated to the Championship, and then we went back to the Premier League.

"Some of the players that are not here now, they could still be here, and they were very, very important players. With all of what has happened, and with the Championship in between, during the transfer windows we have signed players that could give us something.

"The first year we needed players who would help us get promoted. And we did it. Then we needed players who would help us stay up, and we did it finishing tenth.

"Then in a team, in a squad, you have to have players that have a value, and another value. But what you have to have is players that care. You can see the workrate of Joselu in every single game is good. And he has scored some goals, too.

"He is doing what he has to do in a team like us who, normally, will not have too much possession. We have to defend, we have to try to be sure we are in the right position without the ball.

"Then, after, you expect: 'Well he has to be in the box.' Yeah, but we need to defend, because if not we cannot regain the ball. I think he's one of the players who works harder than anyone.

"You can say: 'Oh, the strikers they have to score goals.' Yeah, fine, but you have to take everything in context. I believe he's a good player for us, he is giving everything, and that's it."