Eddie Howe outlines Saudi Pro League stance as he discusses Newcastle United January transfer plans

Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe has questioned the media circus around this week’s Premier League vote and the focus on the Saudi Pro League. (Screenshot/NUFCTV)
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Updated 25 November 2023
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Eddie Howe outlines Saudi Pro League stance as he discusses Newcastle United January transfer plans

  • Magpies manager counts cost of long-term absentees and says injuries likely to shape any moves in winter window

NEWCASTLE: Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe has questioned the media circus around this week’s Premier League vote and the focus on the Saudi Pro League when discussing the Magpies’ January transfer plans.

Despite reports to the contrary, and having admitted his liking for Al-Hilal’s Ruben Neves, Howe has revealed he has no intention of raiding any one of the four SPL clubs also owned by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

That revelation comes after a controversial Premier League vote on whether to close the rule loophole which allows players to be loaned between clubs with the same owners.

On Tuesday, the vote failed, with eight of the top flight’s 20 clubs voting against the changes. A majority of 14 was needed in order for the rules to be altered. With laws remaining unaltered, the subsequent days have been filled with reports of Howe’s interest in Neves, and Newcastle’s intent to exploit the Saudi market.

That is news to Howe, however. Asked whether he would look to the SPL’s PIF four for January loan deals, he said: “It’s not even in our thoughts at this moment in time. As I said, at the start of the season, January was not a window that we were looking to invest in. It would only be a reaction to the injuries that we have and whether we need to recruit because the majority of our players would be back in January, at this moment in time we don’t know.”

On the vote itself, Howe was quick to turn attention away from Newcastle United, although they do, of course, now have more options that they would have if the loophole had been closed.

“You say Newcastle’s favor, it was a Premier League vote; we’re not the only club involved in that vote,” Howe said.

“I think the majority of clubs in the Premier League own other clubs around the world, so it’s not solely on us, I don’t think.

“Newcastle, as a club, had a view. We voted our way in the way we’re allowed to and the vote came out on the side that it did. Just from my dealings with it, we’re very relaxed on it. It’s not the be-all and end-all for us.

“Nothing irritates me. I found it a bit strange that the focus has been solely on us. Every club has a right to vote how they want to vote and it hasn’t gone through so it’s not just about us. I think it’s the same for everybody. I understand the focus being solely on us, but it’s not solely on us. This is a vote for all Premier League clubs. We’ll be potentially allowed to recruit from a league, just like every Premier League club can as well.

“We’ve got a squad we really like. If we can get players fit before January, the need to recruit will become much less intense for us.”

Injuries are the major talking point at Newcastle, although that situation has, if potentially temporarily, eased.

Alexander Isak is expected to be in contention against Chelsea this weekend, along with Bruno Guimaraes, while a late call will be made on fellow midfielder Sean Longstaff. Miguel Almiron, Kieran Trippier and Fabian Schar have been passed fit. Lewis Hall is ineligible against the Blues, as he is on loan from Stamford Bridge this season.

Injuries are likely to shape any moves in the winter window, according to Howe, who is without the likes of long-term absentees Callum Wilson, Harvey Barnes, Dan Burn and Sven Botman.

Howe said: “Certainly we’re going to have to be reactive, I think, because we’ve got injuries in different areas of the squad; there’s not necessarily one area, there’s a few areas. I think that will be a decision made toward the window opening, rather than now. To sort of form any plans now would be a mistake. Of course, we’re doing the work now to prepare for that.”

“It’s hard to make any kind of decision as I sit here now because the squad could look very different by Jan. 1. The squad could look a lot stronger. I say ‘could’ because we don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few weeks. In general, I’m against making short-term decisions unless we absolutely have to. Last January, we invested in Anthony Gordon, who we really believed could be a top talent here for many, many years. He was the right personality at that time to improve the squad. I think they’re the types of signings that we want to be making. Sat here now, though, I’ve no idea whether we’ll be in a position to do that.”

One player Howe did not expect to be without long-term was summer signing Sandro Tonali.

The former AC Milan man is serving a 10-month ban for illegal betting activities, but has been allowed to train with his teammates during that period. Howe admits he is frustrated on that front, however, with the Italian midfielder looking sharper than ever behind the scenes, at a time when the Magpies could really do with him on the pitch.

Howe said: “Sandro has been training very well, which makes it even more frustrating for us that we can’t use him, especially in this moment when we really need him. He’s a player training, he’s fit and he’s looked really good.

“Despite the obvious frustration for me, I’m very pleased that he’s training at that level, and that’s a hallmark of his character because it’s very difficult when you’ve got such a long period out to keep your focus day-to-day and do your job as well as you can, and he’s certainly done that.

“So far, he’s coping very well with his situation in the fact that he’s doing extra work. He’s trying to improve himself despite the fact he can’t play for such a long time. You wouldn’t know from our training sessions that he’s unavailable to play, and it’s probably been the best we have seen him in training. That’s natural because he’s getting used to his surroundings and he’s comfortable now. I’d love to see him when he comes back into the team because I think he will be a huge player for us.”


Ten Hag says reaction to Man Utd FA Cup win a ‘disgrace’

Updated 58 min 19 sec ago
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Ten Hag says reaction to Man Utd FA Cup win a ‘disgrace’

  • Ten Hag admitted after the match his team had “got away with it” but played down any notion of embarrassment
  • “The comments are a disgrace“

LONDON: Erik ten Hag says the media reaction to Manchester United’s performance in the FA Cup semifinal against Coventry was “a disgrace,” robustly defending his side’s achievement in reaching a second straight final.
United surrendered a 3-0 lead at Wembley on Sunday and were saved from a humiliating exit in extra time only by a VAR intervention, which ruled out a goal for offside in the final moments.
They eventually scraped through against the Championship side on penalties to set up a re-match of last year’s final against City.
Ten Hag admitted after the match his team had “got away with it” but played down any notion of embarrassment.
But he has been widely criticized, adding to speculation he is on borrowed time at Old Trafford.
Former Premier League striker Chris Sutton said the performance would “cement his sacking.”
But Ten Hag was in defiant mood on the eve of United’s Premier League match against bottom side Sheffield United on Wednesday.
“You asked the question: ‘Is it embarrassing?’ No, the reaction from you was embarrassing,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
“It is the comments. Top football is about results. We made it to a final and we deserved it not only by this game but also the other games.
“We lost control for 20 minutes, we also had bad luck, 3-2, 3-3. We were very lucky in the end, it is clear. Penalties was very good and we made it to the final, it is a huge achievement. Twice, in two years, is magnificent. For me as a manager, four cup finals in four years.
“The comments are a disgrace.”
United, winless in their past four Premier League games, are in danger of missing out on a European spot next season after a poor campaign.
They are already realistically out of the race to qualify for the lucrative Champions League but still have the Europa League and the Europa Conference League to aim for.
“We have to win every game, we know that,” said Ten Hag. “That’s what United stands for and that is our approach, go from game to game but we have to qualify for Europe and we now have two opportunities — in the league and the FA Cup final.”
Ten Hag said he would work closely with newly appointed technical director Jason Wilcox to determine the future direction of the club.
Wilcox, 53, has left second-tier Southampton to take up the job at Old Trafford with immediate effect.
“We have to form a partnership, which is very important,” said Ten Hag. “We are a little bit behind in the process so we have to catch up and we will go and speed up the process.”


AlUla Camel Cup promises a one-of-a-kind experience

Updated 23 April 2024
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AlUla Camel Cup promises a one-of-a-kind experience

  • Tickets to major heritage event available online
  • The camel racing spectacular runs from April 24-27

AlUla: The AlUla Camel Cup, considered the pinnacle of camel racing in the region, promises an exhilarating spectacle for sports aficionados and cultural enthusiasts from across Saudi Arabia and the world.

Organized by the Royal Commission for AlUla in partnership with the Saudi Camel Racing Federation, the event will provide a celebration of sport, culture and entertainment.

In addition to the camel racing, there will be static and mobile displays and acts that celebrate AlUla’s heritage and Saudi Arabia’s artistic legacy, including music and performances that highlight the historical significance of the camel in local culture.

Workshops for adults throughout the day will cover calligraphy, traditional pottery making, incense crafting and Sadu weaving, providing hands-on learning experiences for visitors. Children, meanwhile, will enjoy a range of educational and creative activities, from camel origami and clay modeling to an augmented reality scanner that animates drawings.

Additional attractions include camel riding, a Light Brite experience where guests can try their hand at face painting, and a calligraphy light show after sunset. Visitors can also indulge in a traditional Saudi Arabian coffee roasting and tasting session.

Culinary delights from various cuisines will be available at pop-up stalls, while the retail experience will feature regional brands offering an array of products, including camel-themed streetwear, souvenirs and artisanal items reflecting AlUla’s heritage.

The event will also host the AlUla Design Award Ceremony on Friday, where the winning camel covers will be displayed in the Heritage Village.

Rami AlMoallim, vice president of destination management and marketing at the commission, said: “As the second edition of the AlUla Camel Cup draws closer, we warmly invite sports and culture enthusiasts from around the globe to join us for an experience unlike any other. This event exemplifies RCU’s commitment to sporting excellence infused with cultural depth, reflecting both our rich Saudi heritage and our forward-looking vision for AlUla.

“We are gearing up to deliver an unparalleled celebration of the ancient sport that is camel racing, set against the breathtaking backdrop of this oasis city that will resonate with fans and families alike. We look forward to welcoming guests to experience in person this culmination of Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural landscape and sports innovation.”

The event, being staged at the Mughayra Heritage Sports Village, will feature the region’s fastest camels and most skilled jockeys, promising several rounds of top-tier competition.

The inaugural Camel Cup last year drew thousands of visitors and this year promises an even more significant experience because 2024 is the Year of the Camel, celebrating the animal’s status in Saudi culture and society.

Ticket prices start at SR50 ($13). For bookings and further information, visit experiencealula.com.


Murray buzzer-beater lifts Nuggets over Lakers, Knicks stun Sixers

Updated 23 April 2024
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Murray buzzer-beater lifts Nuggets over Lakers, Knicks stun Sixers

  • The drama in Denver followed a scintillating comeback by the New York Knicks, who scored eight points in the final half-minute to stun the Philadelphia 76ers
  • Embiid was dejected but defiant, telling reporters: “We should be 2-0“

LOS ANGELES: Jamal Murray fired the game-winner at the buzzer as the NBA champion Denver Nuggets erased a 20-point deficit to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 101-99 on Monday and take a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference playoff series.

The drama in Denver followed a scintillating comeback by the New York Knicks, who scored eight points in the final half-minute to stun the Philadelphia 76ers 104-101 for a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference set.

Nikola Jokic delivered a triple-double of 27 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists for Denver and Murray broke out of his shooting doldrums, with 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter.

The Nuggets notched their 10th straight win over LeBron James and the Lakers, a run of dominance that includes Denver’s sweep in last season’s Western Conference finals.

The Lakers, led by the 32 points and 11 rebounds of Anthony Davis, were in control for most of the night, pushing a 59-44 halftime lead to 20 points early in the third quarter.

James scored 26 points and handed out 12 assists, but the Nuggets kept chipping away and tied it at 95-95 on Michael Porter Jr’s basket with 1:15 remaining.

James put the Lakers up 99-97 with a driving layup but Murray tied it again with a step-back jumper with 30 seconds remaining.

After James missed a three-point attempt, Murray rose over Davis and connected on a fall-away jumper with four-tenths of a second left.

“I told my teammates when I was struggling, I’m gonna look for y’all,” Murray told broadcaster TNT. “And every single one of them told me to keep shooting, keep shooting.

“They just told me to stay aggressive and keep looking for it, keep hunting it. I had the ball with a few seconds left and I knew once I made a couple, the next one should go down as well.

“I just beat him to my spot and elevated, went through my shot,” he said. “I’m thankful enough that that was one of the few that went down for me.

It was a similar story in New York, where the Knicks took the lead over the Sixers for the first time in the third quarter.

Philadelphia’s NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid was clearly hindered late by pain in his surgically repaired left knee, but the Sixers appeared to have regained control when Tyrese Maxey, fed by Embiid, made a three-pointer with 1:09 to play that put the Sixers up 100-96.

But Jalen Brunson’s three-pointer with 27.4 seconds left pulled the Knicks within two points and after Josh Hart came up with a steal, Donte DiVincenzo capped a chaotic possession with a three-pointer — after missing his first attempt — to put the Knicks up 102-101.

OG Anunoby sealed it at an ecstatic Madison Square Garden with a pair of free throws.

It was a crushing defeat for Philadelphia, who were up by five with less than a minute to play.

The 76ers were furious that officials failed to respond to their calls for a time-out in the critical seconds, Embiid adding a jab over missed foul calls.

“That’s unacceptable to put us in that situation,” Embiid said. “Everybody on the floor was trying to call time-out... but they didn’t give it to us.

“But forget about the time-out, there’s a bunch of fouls .... that’s unacceptable.

“We’re going to win this series,” he added. “We’re the better team and we’re going to keep fighting.”

Brunson finished with 24 points despite connecting on just eight of 29 shots from the field. He added eight rebounds and six assists and Hart added 21 points and 15 rebounds for New York.

The series shifts to Philadelphia on Thursday.

Maxey, who skipped the Sixers’ morning shoot-around because of illness, finished with 35 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists. Embiid added 34 points and 10 rebounds but missed a three-pointer at the final buzzer.

In Cleveland, the Cavaliers cruised to a 96-86 victory over the Orlando Magic, their second straight wire-to-wire victory giving them a 2-0 series lead.

Donovan Mitchell scored 23 points and Jarrett Allen added 16 points and 20 rebounds for the Cavs.

Paolo Banchero led Orlando’s scoring with 21 points and Franz Wagner added 18. The youthful Magic will be hoping to turn things around when the series shifts to Orlando.


Saudi Arabia lose to Iraq as both teams progress to quarterfinals of 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup

Updated 23 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia lose to Iraq as both teams progress to quarterfinals of 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup

  • The 2-1 reverse sees the Green Falcons finish second in Group C of tournament that is also a qualifying competition for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris

DOHA: Iraq defeated Saudi Arabia 2-1 on Monday night at Khalifa International Stadium in Al-Rayyan as both teams secured their spots in the last eight of the 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup.

Saudi Arabia entered the match as leaders of Group C with a maximum of six points from two matches. But the reverse sees them drop to second in the final standings, with Iraq — also on six points — taking top spot with a superior head-to-head record.

With three points apiece, Tajikistan and Thailand finished third and fourth respectively and were eliminated from the competition.

The tournament, which runs until May 3, provides a pathway to the men’s football competition at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

Iraq took the lead one minute into first-half stoppage time through an Ali Jasim penalty but there was still time for Saudi Arabia to equalize nine minutes later with a spot kick converted by Ahmed Al-Ghamdi.

Iraq secured the win thanks to Mustafa Saadoun’s winner on 63 minutes.

Monday also saw the conclusion of Group B with South Korea beating Japan 1-0 and China overcoming the UAE 2-1.

South Korea and Japan had qualified from the group ahead of the final round of matches.

Tuesday will see the final round of Group D matches, with Uzbekistan and Vietnam already guaranteeing their progress to the last eight as they sit on six points apiece.

The tournament has 16 nations split into four groups, with the top two from each progressing to the quarterfinals. The winners of the two semifinals secure automatic qualification to the Olympic Games.

The two losing semifinalists will contest third place, with the winners also booking a place in Paris, while the fourth-place finishers have a final chance with a playoff against an African qualifier.


Stacked fight card set for PFL Europe Newcastle

Updated 23 April 2024
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Stacked fight card set for PFL Europe Newcastle

  • Path to Greatness’ event by Saudi Arabia-backed brand takes place June 8 at Utilita Arena with bantamweight and flyweights competing
  • Boxing world champion Savannah Marshall makes her PFL SmartCage debut in her hometown of Newcastle against Brazil’s Mirela Vargas

NEW YORK: The Professional Fighters League has announced a stacked card for its PFL Europe Newcastle event on June 8, featuring bantamweights and flyweights looking to secure spots in the playoffs this September.

 

The “Path to Greatness” event has prize money of $100,000.

 

Local hero Savannah Marshall makes her cage debut against Brazil’s Mirela Vargas.

 

Dan Hardy, head of fighter operations for PFL Europe, said: “We can’t wait to come back to Newcastle on June 8th, where PFL Europe officially launched in 2023. Our bantamweight and women’s flyweight rosters are packed with quality and represent the best that the elite European MMA scene has to offer. And with the Regular Season format all of these fighters know what’s at the end of the line — the European title, $100k and a pathway to our Global Season.

 

“But it wouldn’t be a PFL Europe event without a stacked evening of showcase bouts, and we have a great selection of future stars, simmering tensions and a local hero in Savannah Marshall making her MMA debut.”

 

Marshall has 10 victories by knockout as a boxer. She joins the deepest female combat sports roster in the world, which includes a familiar foe in Claressa Shields. Her first test in the cage comes in the form of Vargas, a three-fight professional.

 

With the winners progressing and the losers going home, the stakes could not be higher for the bantamweights. England’s highly regarded Scouser Dean Garnett (12-2-1), who is on a four-fight win streak, faces Belgium’s Ayton De Paepe (12-4) as both step into the PFL SmartCage for the first time.

 

Also at bantamweight, last year’s finalist, Ireland’s Frans Mlambo (15-6) looks to return to winning ways against Scotland’s “The Apocalypse” Luke Shanks (10-4). Meanwhile, returning champion Khurshed Kakhorov (12-1) defends his PFL Europe title against Georgian Kikadze Bondo (8-3-1) who dominated striking expert Dom Wooding last time out.

 

Rounding off the bantamweights, Alexander Luster (7-1), who has lit up the German MMA scene with all seven of his professional wins coming inside the first two rounds, faces Alperen Karabulut (10-3-0, 1 no-contest), the first Turkiye fighter to compete inside the PFL SmartCage.

 

In the women’s flyweight division, one of the most highly regarded female prospects in the world, Shanelle “The Nightmare” Dyer (4-0), will make her PFL Europe Season debut against Georgian submission specialist Mariam Torchinava (9-2). Also on the card Dyer’s bitter rival and viral sensation, Sammy-Jo Luxton (2-0), makes her long awaited PFL Europe debut versus the returning Dutch talent Lizzy Gevers (3-1).

 

Also competing in the flyweight division, 2023 finalist Valentina Scatizzi (2-2) from Italy will face France’s experienced 43-year-old Marie Loiseau (6-4), and Ireland’s Dee Begley (4-5) faces Poland’s Paulina Wisniewska (2-0).

 

There will be one additional welterweight fight, with Jack Grant (19-8) facing Charlie Leary (17-13-1), with a chance to proceed to the playoffs and join the semifinalists who were victorious in Paris.

 

The 2024 PFL Europe Season began last month with a sold-out show in Paris. After Newcastle, the action moves to Glasgow’s OVO Hydro on Sept. 28. The season will conclude at a venue to be announced later.

 

PFL Europe Newcastle Main Card:

 

Main Event: Savannah Marshall (debut) vs Mirela Vargas (1-2)

 

Lightweight Showcase Bout: Kane Mousah (14-6) vs Dylan Tuke (7-4)

 

Welterweight Season Bout: Jack Grant (19-8) vs Charlie Leary (17-13-1)

 

Bantamweight Season Bout: Dean Garnett (12-2-1) vs Ayton De Paepe (12-4)

 

Women’s Flyweight Season Bout: Shanelle Dyer (4-0) vs Mariam Torchinava (9-2)

Featherweight Showcase Bout: Ibragim Ibragimov (6-0) vs Josh Reed (13-8)

 

Bantamweight Season Bout: Frans Mlambo (15-6) vs Luke Shanks (10-4)

 

Women’s Flyweight Season Bout: Lizzy Gevers (3-1) vs Sammy-Jo Luxton (2-0)

 

Lightweight Showcase Bout: Mark Ewen (5-0) vs Mathias Poiron (7-1)

 

Bantamweight Season Bout: Khurshed Kakhorov (12-1) vs Bondo Kikadze (8-3-1)

 

Women’s Flyweight Season Bout: Valentina Scatizzi (2-2) vs Marie Loiseau (6-4)

 

Featherweight Showcase Bout: Ben Woolliss (2-0) vs Maher Belkhadir (1-1)

 

Bantamweight Bout: Alexander Luster (7-1) vs Alperen Karabulut (10-3-0, 1 NC)

 

Women’s Flyweight Bout: Dee Begley (4-5) vs Paulina Wisniewska (2-0)