Al-Shabab’s head of football Mike Newell positive about Saudi Arabian game

Head of Football at Al-Shabab in Saudi Arabia, Mike Newell has been pleasantly surprised by the love for the game in the country. (REUTERS)
Updated 31 January 2018
0

Al-Shabab’s head of football Mike Newell positive about Saudi Arabian game

LONDON: Mike Newell grew up and played his best football in the north-west of England, one of the hotbeds of world football.
The striker played for Everton in the late eighties and early nineties, won the 1995 Premier League title with Blackburn Rovers and scored a UEFA Champions League hat-trick in the space of nine minutes.
Now, as Head of Football at Al-Shabab in Saudi Arabia, he has been pleasantly surprised by the love for the game in the country as well as the standard of the players.
“To be honest, I didn’t know that football was the national sport here,” Newell told Arab News.
“They are mad about it. Every time there is a big game, everyone is out watching it. When they qualified for the World Cup, people were not talking about anything else.”
That was last September as the Green Falcons defeated Japan to book their first World Cup spot since 2006. The reward was an opening game with hosts Russia in Moscow on Jun. 14 and and then further Group A games with Uruguay and Egypt.
And already Newell has seen enough quality from both the side and throughout the Saudi Professional League to believe there is a chance of a good showing.
“The draw is not bad. I want them to go there and do well as it would be a huge thing for the country if they did get out of the group.
“I can feel how much people are looking forward to it. They will be glued to their televisions and they deserve something to cheer about.”
Newell will be supporting the Green Falcons in Russia after becoming attached to the people and the country. That was perhaps unexpected in March last year when he got the call from his friend Pat Janssen, the CEO of Al-Shabab to help take the club forward.
“I jumped at the chance. It had become difficult for me to get back in the game in England,” he said.
Newell was regarded as a hot coaching prospect in England but caused controversy in 2006 when, as head coach of Luton Town, he publicly said there was a lot of corruption involved in transfer deals.
Now he is focused on sharing knowledge.
“The players are receptive to what we are trying to do.” Having former Everton and Ireland legend Kevin Sheedy, one of the best players in English football in the 1980s, also working there helps, not least as he spent 11 years working in Everton’s academy.
“All we can do is give them an idea of our thoughts on football and without being disrespectful, they are a little behind. One criticism I have is that they hold their youngsters back too long and keep them in their age brackets for too long.
“There is a bit of a downer on players progressing too early. I don’t want to be too critical but it can restrict the players a little.”
The Englishman would like to see more chances given to the younger players but is concerned about the recent introduction in the Saudi Premier League that allows clubs to have seven foreign players. In much of Asia, the limit is usually four, sometimes five.
“They have to be careful that they don’t follow the English Premier League and have too many foreign players. This can be a problem for all the younger players who are trying to break through.
“If they are top-class players then fine but they have to make sure the quality is there and that the league does not become flooded with foreign players who are nothing special.”
Ultimately Newell would like to return to England at some point. And hopes that a good showing in the Middle East can help put his European career back on track. 
“In England, if you have the right connections then you will never struggle for a job and there are certain managers who are permanently on that roundabout when the jobs are available.
“I don’t want to sound like I am complaining. I do believe I that I will get back to the highest level in England one day but I don’t know how long it will take.”
In the meantime, Saudi Arabia and Al-Shabab suits him just fine.

FACT FILE
AGE: 53
POSTIONS: Striker, he scored 119 goals during his career
PAST CLUBS: Luton Town, Leicester City, Everton, Blackburn Rovers
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Winning the Premier League title with Blackburn in 1995; scoring the 1000th goal of the Premier League era during Blackburn’s 3-1 win over Nottingham Forest in 1993.
MANAGERIAL CAREER: Impressed as a young coach at Luton Town and was linked with a number of jobs at bigger clubs.


Rafael Nadal: Wimbledon seeding system disrespects world tennis rankings

Updated 25 June 2019
0

Rafael Nadal: Wimbledon seeding system disrespects world tennis rankings

  • Rafael Nadal will be seeded three and Roger Federer two at the All England Club this year
  • Wimbledon uses its own formula to dictate the order

MADRID: Rafael Nadal has complained about Wimbledon’s seeding system after the Spaniard was placed at number three, behind Roger Federer, for next week’s grand slam in London.
The other three major tournaments all match their seeding to the official world rankings but Wimbledon uses its own formula to dictate the order, combining ranking points with form in grass-court competitions.
It means Nadal will be seeded three and Federer two at the All England Club this year, despite their positions being the reverse in the rankings list.
“Wimbledon is the only tournament of the year that does it like this,” Nadal told Spanish television channel Movistar on Monday night.
“Obviously it would be better to be two than three but if they think I have to be three I will accept three and fight to win the matches I have to win.
“Having said that, the only thing that doesn’t seem right about this issue is that it is only Wimbledon that does it. If they all did it, it would seem more correct.
“It’s not only about my particular case. There have been many occasions when players have played well all year on all surfaces but Wimbledon does not respect the ranking they have earned.
“And for this reason, they get more complicated draws.”
Nadal is yet to play an official match on grass this year while Federer warmed up for Wimbledon last week by winning his 10th title at the grass-court tournament in Halle.
Federer and top seed Novak Djokovic will be at opposite ends of the Wimbledon draw, separated until the final, but Nadal is guaranteed to have either Federer or Djokovic in his half, and could meet them in the semis.
“For me personally, it means if I am three, to get to the final, Djokovic or Federer will be in my half,” Nadal added.
“But that can only happen in the semifinals and to get there I have to win five matches. Today I’m far away.”
Nadal claimed his 18th major title earlier this month by winning the French Open for a record-extending 12th time. He now sits behind only Federer’s 20 grand slam triumphs in the all-time list of male champions.