Eddie Howe reveals respect for potential Newcastle technical director Dan Ashworth

Eddie Howe reveals respect for potential Newcastle technical director Dan Ashworth
Newcastle United's English head coach Eddie Howe applauds supporters after the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Newcastle United at Anfield. (File/AFP)
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Updated 25 December 2021

Eddie Howe reveals respect for potential Newcastle technical director Dan Ashworth

Eddie Howe reveals respect for potential Newcastle technical director Dan Ashworth
  • Magpies boss also throws his support behind struggling forward Alain Saint-Maximin

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe has opened up on his “respect” for Dan Ashworth as the Brighton & Hove Albion technical director continues to be linked with a role at Newcastle United.

Arab News understands the Magpies are in negotiations with former Football Association “England DNA” architect Ashworth to take on a similar role to the one he has with the Seagulls up on Tyneside.

And while it is hoped Ashworth will accept a “substantial” contract offer from United, it is not a given he will walk away from his project down on the south coast of England.

When asked about Ashworth's possible arrival, head coach Howe was coy on the matter, although he did admit he has respect for the 50-year-old's work.

He said: “I highly respect Dan and his work but I won’t go into more than that. I like him and respect him but I will not comment anymore.”

He will, of course, have little say in the matter, but is Howe open to working within a director of football or sporting director structure at Newcastle?

“I think it is vitally important you get the structure right at any football club,” he said when asked about the subject.

“The relationships are so important between the owner to the sporting director to the manager and the players, the recruitment team. Life is built around relationships and making sure those relationships are honest and open and everyone trusts each other, that's fundamental. And then you build a healthy working relationship and try to take the club forward.

“That’s what I will do with whoever comes in. Hopefully the relationship will be a strong one.”

A pressing concern for Howe in the coming weeks, apart from games and getting points on the board, is the January transfer window and securing new recruits.

Howe has revealed work started on deals at the beginning of December, although he is refusing to make any winter window promises.

“We obviously have players that we have identified between myself, the coaching team, recruitment team,” he said.

“We have a big body of people behind the scenes working on behalf of the football club to try and find a way to strengthen the squad. The work has been going on all through December and a lot of detail has gone into that process,” said Howe.

“But as we all know, you can have the most detailed process in the world but if players don’t want to come to your club or clubs don’t want to sell, January becomes very difficult,” he added. “We are under no illusions, and we make no promises on what will and won’t be done but the work goes on behind the scenes.”

Meanwhile, one current player whose future has been brought into sharp focus by fans in recent weeks has been Allan Saint-Maximin.

The Frenchman was United’s standout player at the start of the season with goals and assists added to his obvious talent.

Those have, however, dried up in recent times and the performances seem to have dipped.

Howe is not losing faith in his enigmatic forward just yet, though — instead focussing on how to get the best out of United trickster.

“Maxi is a huge, huge player for us. He is the catalyst for many things,” he said. “It is all about us trying to function well enough, give enough stability to then give him the ball more and showcase his talents.”

“We need to give him the ball more in the attacking third because he is such an exciting player,” added Howe. “We are still working out the best way to utilize him in each moment of the game.”


Celtics roll past Heat 127-102, tie Eastern Conference finals at 1-1

Celtics roll past Heat 127-102, tie Eastern Conference finals at 1-1
Updated 56 min 34 sec ago

Celtics roll past Heat 127-102, tie Eastern Conference finals at 1-1

Celtics roll past Heat 127-102, tie Eastern Conference finals at 1-1
  • The Celtics — now 4-0 in these playoffs in the game immediately following a loss — made 20 shots from 3-point range to Miami’s 10

MIAMI: His team was down by 10 in the opening minutes, and Boston coach Ime Udoka was making no effort to hide his level of disappointment.

His message was simple.

“Wake up,” he told his team.

Oh, they listened. And the Eastern Conference finals are all knotted up, the series about to shift to Boston with the Celtics now holding the home-court advantage.

Jayson Tatum scored 27 points, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown each had 24 and the Celtics went on a massive first-half run to roll past the Miami Heat 127-102 on Thursday night in Game 2 of the series.

“Guys have pride and looked at a golden opportunity that we kind of lost (in Game 1) and thought we could do much better,” Udoka said. “And we did that tonight.”

Smart was a rebound shy of a triple-double, after adding 12 assists and nine rebounds.

Grant Williams scored 19 points for Boston, which used a 17-0 run late in the first quarter — fueled by five 3-pointers in the span of six possessions — to take control. Payton Pritchard and Al Horford each had 10 for the Celtics.

“We were pretty confident,” Pritchard said.

Jimmy Butler had 29 points in 32 minutes for Miami, which fell to 7-1 at home in these playoffs. Gabe Vincent and Victor Oladipo each scored 14 points, and Tyler Herro added 11 for the Heat.

“This only counts as one,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That’s what the experienced players in the locker room and staff understand. We don’t like it. They played extremely well. You have two really good teams and we just have to figure some things out.”

The Celtics — now 4-0 in these playoffs in the game immediately following a loss — made 20 shots from 3-point range to Miami’s 10. Game 3 is Saturday in Boston.

“It’s a loss, whether you lose by one or by 20,” Vincent said. “It’s regroup, go back to the drawing board and get ready for Game 3.”

And the margin could have been worse: Boston led by as many as 34 points in the fourth, putting this game on the cusp of really good Celtics history and really bad Heat history. The Celtics’ record for biggest postseason win ever is 40, the Heat record for biggest postseason loss ever is 36, and those numbers were within reach before a meaningless Miami run over the final moments.

Boston trailed by 10 in the first quarter, then outscored Miami 60-21 over the next 18 minutes — a 39-point turnaround that wound up leading to a 70-45 halftime lead.

The 25-point halftime lead was the biggest by the Celtics in any road playoff game, topping a 22-point edge at the break at Chicago in 2009.

“They came out,” Heat center Bam Adebayo said, “and hit us in the mouth.”

Brown had 11 points in the first quarter, when the Celtics went 9 for 11 from 3-point range. Tatum then had 17 points in the second and Boston kept pulling away, on a day where everything went the Celtics’ way. They learned earlier in the day that two starters — Horford (virus-related issues) and Smart (mid-foot sprain) — were cleared to play in Game 2 after missing the series opener.

“I got to get my rest, got to get my health back, got to watch and see some things and come out and execute in this game,” Smart said.

And the good news kept coming well into the night.

Butler did all he could to try and manufacture a comeback, scoring 16 points in the third quarter and getting the Heat within 17. But a 12-2 run late in the quarter by the Celtics restored a 27-point edge. The lead was 96-71 going into the fourth and the outcome was never remotely close to being in question the rest of the way.

Miami didn’t even use their starters in the fourth quarter.

“It has to hurt,” Butler said. “They tried to embarrass us. They did embarrass us. ... Overall, we just have to be better.”


McIlroy vaults to 65 for early PGA lead as Tiger, Spieth struggle

McIlroy vaults to 65 for early PGA lead as Tiger, Spieth struggle
Updated 20 May 2022

McIlroy vaults to 65 for early PGA lead as Tiger, Spieth struggle

McIlroy vaults to 65 for early PGA lead as Tiger, Spieth struggle
  • Sparked by four consecutive birdies, matching his longest such run in a major, McIlroy delivered his best opening round in a major since a 65 at the 2011 US Open, which he won for his first major title

TULSA, OKLAHOMA: Rory McIlroy fired his best opening round at a major in 11 years on Thursday to seize the lead at the PGA Championship while Tiger Woods struggled in his second comeback event after severe leg injuries.

Seventh-ranked McIlroy, chasing his first major title since the 2014 PGA, fired a 5-under par 65 to grab a one-stroke lead over Americans Will Zalatoris and Tom Hoge with Americans Justin Thomas and Matt Kuchar and Mexico’s Abraham Ancer on 67.

Sparked by four consecutive birdies, matching his longest such run in a major, McIlroy delivered his best opening round in a major since a 65 at the 2011 US Open, which he won for his first major title.

“It was a great start to the tournament,” McIlroy said. “It was nice to get off to that good start and sort of keep it going.”

Four-time major winner McIlroy started on the back nine with 15-time major winner Woods and Jordan Spieth before a huge crowd.

Woods, who returned last month at the Masters 14 months after a car crash left him unable to walk for months, birdied the 10th and par-3 14th but made bogeys on six of his last 10 holes to shoot 74 while Spieth, chasing a win for a career Grand Slam, stumbled to a 72.

“Off to a good start,” Woods said. “Hit a lot of bad iron shots late. I just never got the ball close to have any good birdie putts. I kept putting it into bad spots.

“It was a frustrating day.”

McIlroy, who last led a major round at the 2014 PGA, has had poor major starts but the Masters runner-up reeled off four consecutive birdies from the 12th through 15th holes.

The 33-year-old from Northern Ireland put his approach inches from the cup and birdied the par-4 12th, escaped a bunker for a tap-in birdie at the par-5 13th and made a 26-foot birdie putt at the par-3 14th.

“When your game is feeling like that, it’s just a matter of going out there and really sticking to your game plan, executing as well as you possibly can,” McIlroy said.

McIlroy sank a nine-foot birdie putt at 15 to take the solo lead and kept it with par saves at 16 thanks to a chip to two feet and a six-foot putt at 18.

McIlroy sank a 14-foot birdie putt at the second and an 11-foot birdie at the par-5 fifth, but missed the green and made bogeys at the par-3 sixth and par-3 eighth holes before closing at the ninth with a birdie putt from just inside 19 feet.

Zalatoris, with four top-eight efforts in seven major starts, made a career-best 150 feet of putts, including birdie efforts from 30 feet at the ninth, 23 feet at the 12th, 26 feet at the 13th and 24 feet at the seventh.

“It’s super fun whenever you have days like that,” Zalatoris said. “It was kind of a bizarre day.”

Hoge, a February winner at Pebble Beach, was happy with his 66 as well.

“I was scrambling pretty good and got up-and-down on all of them,” Hoge said. “That really gave me some momentum going forward.”

Thomas, the 2017 PGA winner, sank a 20-foot birdie putt at 18 to pull within two of McIlroy.

“I’d call any birdie on 18 a steal,” Thomas said. “To finish the day with a three there was a great bonus.”

Former world No.1 Woods, now ranked 818th, admitted his surgically repaired right leg “hurt.”

“My leg is not feeling as good as I would like it to be,” said Woods.

Three-time major winner Spieth made three bogeys in four holes starting at 15 on his way to a 72.

The world’s three top-ranked golfers played together with over-par results.

World No. 1 Masters champion Scottie Scheffler eagled the par-5 fifth but made five bogeys in the last 10 holes to shoot 71.

Second-ranked Spaniard Jon Rahm, the 2021 US Open winner, shot 73 while third-ranked American Collin Morikawa, reigning British Open champion, had only one birdie in shooting 72.


’We called her Roger Federer’: How Ons Jabeur made her mark in Tunisia

’We called her Roger Federer’: How Ons Jabeur made her mark in Tunisia
Updated 20 May 2022

’We called her Roger Federer’: How Ons Jabeur made her mark in Tunisia

’We called her Roger Federer’: How Ons Jabeur made her mark in Tunisia
  • Jabeur, who hopes to win a maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open which starts in Paris on Sunday, started playing on courts belonging to local hotels
  • She has gone on to rise to sixth place in the global Women’s Tennis Association’s women’s singles rankings — the first Arab woman ever to reach the world top 10

HAMMAM SOUSSE, Tunisia: Fifteen years before Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur became the first Arab or African woman to win a top-flight tennis title, her adolescent sparring partner could see she was destined for glory even if he suffered a broken arm in the process.

Omar Laabidi remembers being repeatedly beaten by a 12-year-old Jabeur, who this month surged to victory at the Madrid Open at the age of 27 — the first WTA 1000 trophy of her career.

“We used to call her Roger Federer,” he said.

Laabidi was talking at the tennis club where it all began, in the North African country’s coastal town of Hammam Sousse.

“One time during a training match she hit a drop shot that I tried so hard to return that I broke my arm,” he said.

Jabeur, who hopes to win a maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open which starts in Paris on Sunday, started playing on courts belonging to local hotels.

Omar Laabidi, the adolescent sparring partner of Ons Jabeur, teaches students at the Hammam Sousse tennis club in the Mediterranean port city of Sousse on May 13, 2022.  (AFP)

But she soon joined the Hammam Sousse Club, which now bears a huge portrait of its most famous graduate.

It was there that Nabil Mlika first trained a talented girl “determined to stand out” against both female and male peers.

But Mlika, who trained a young Jabeur for 10 years, said there was a moment where she almost quit the sport.

“She had great ball control, to the point where other coaches tried to attract her to handball,” said the 55-year-old.

“Ons thought seriously about switching sport — but decided to stick to tennis.”

She has gone on to rise to sixth place in the global Women’s Tennis Association’s women’s singles rankings — the first Arab woman ever to reach the world top 10.

She also reached the final of the Italian Open in mid-May, eventually won by world No. 1 Iga Swiatek.

Jabeur, known to many Tunisians as “the minister for happiness,” was born in the southern coastal town of Ksar Hellal, one of four siblings.

She moved to the capital Tunis at the age of 12 to train at a prestigious state-backed sports club.

She has been married to her physical trainer and former fencer, Karim Kammoun, since 2015.

The right-hander is known for her stamina and for constantly changing the pace of the match.

“She hates playing at one pace. She’s always trying to create a spectacle by switching up the game with shots that surprise her opponents, especially with drop shots,” said Mlika.

“She’s really the queen of the drop shot.”

Jabeur made her first entry to the global scene in 2011, winning the girls’ singles finals at the French Open at the age of 16.

Laabidi also moved to Tunis around the same time as the adolescent Jabeur and joined the same academy, where they continued sparring.

“She was always fun and quickly got to know strangers,” he said.

“But she was always provocative and competitively debating on all subjects.”

Those who knew her as a teenager say she has changed little despite her growing fame.

“She still runs around gathering up all the balls during training, which she’s been doing since she started playing,” said Mlika.

Unsurprisingly, as her fame has spiralled since 2018, subscriptions have skyrocketed at her home club from 320 to more than 700 students today.

For Yousra Koubaa, the mother of eight-year-old student Yasmine, Jabeur is “an example of hope, one we’re always showing to our children.”

Mlika says he uses photos of a young Jabeur to inspire his students today.

“She was a spark of enthusiasm, always moving and wanting to show that she was the best,” he said.

“She always put me in a difficult position because I had to balance between taking the training up a level, or waiting for her peers to catch up with her level and her pace.”


Al-Fayha shock Al-Hilal in King’s Cup final to claim first-ever major trophy

Al-Fayha shock Al-Hilal in King’s Cup final to claim first-ever major trophy
Updated 20 May 2022

Al-Fayha shock Al-Hilal in King’s Cup final to claim first-ever major trophy

Al-Fayha shock Al-Hilal in King’s Cup final to claim first-ever major trophy
  • The underdogs took the Saudi and Asian champions to extra time after holding them to a 1-1 draw in normal time, before winning 3-1 on penalties

Al-Fayha defeated Al-Hilal 3-1 in a penalty shootout on Thursday to claim the King’s Cup, the first major trophy in the club’s history.

After two hours of football ended 1-1 at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, the men from Al-Majma’ah were the ones celebrating after Panagiotis Tachtsidis fired home the decisive spot-kick.

It was a stunning ending to the game, during which a Salem Al-Dawsari goal deep into first-half stoppage time broke the deadlock and put Al-Hilal ahead, before Ramon Lopes equalized for the underdogs midway through the second half.

The Riyadh giants had more of the game in terms of possession and chances but nevertheless found it hard going against determined opponents who have the best defensive record in the country. Had Al-Hilal been a little more clinical during the opening exchanges it might have been a very different evening.

It was a breathless opening by the favorites. Coach Ramon Diaz had talked before the game about how his team needed to take their chances because Al-Fayha have the tightest defense in the country, and had they heeded those words Al-Hilal could have almost put the game beyond reach within the first 10 minutes.

With less than five minutes on the clock, the men in blue almost took the lead when Nasser Al-Dawsari burst through onto a loose ball in the area and lifted his shot over the goalkeeper. It was heading toward the back of the net when, almost out of nowhere, Hussein Al-Shuwaish appeared and hooked the ball clear. Soon after, Al-Fayha goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic got down low at his near post to save well from Odion Ighalo.

Five minutes later, Al-Hilal again came close. Moussa Marega sent over a perfect cross from the right side for Al-Dawsari, who arrived unnoticed and unmarked. Somehow, the winger managed to head wide with the goal at his mercy.

Al-Fayha weathered this early storm during the first 20 minutes, during which they did not even manage to secure one fifth of the possession, before finally starting to venture into opposition territory. At the midway point of the first half, Ahmed Bamsaud sent a header over the bar. By that time, the game had settled into a scrappy affair and it looked likely that the two teams would go in goalless at the break.

But with virtually the last kick of the half, Al-Dawsari struck. Collecting the ball from Salman Al-Faraj just inside the left side of the area, the 30 year old took a touch and, with the goalkeeper perhaps expecting a curler into the top corner, fired a low shot with his right foot that beat the diving Stojkovic at the near post.

The half-time show lasted more than 30 minutes and after the restart it took a little time for the game to rediscover its rhythm but Al-Fayha were noticeably more aggressive. After 66 minutes, the underdogs were back on level terms.

It was not a great goal to concede, from Al-Hilal’s viewpoint. Defender Ali Al-Bulaihi completely missed a cross from the right and Lopes got to the ball ahead of Jang Hyun-soo around the penalty spot. His shot on the turn should have been saved by Abdullah Al-Mayouf, who instead could only palm the ball onto the underside of the bar on its way into the net.

Al-Fayha could have gone on to win the game in normal time but were unable to take their chances. The pace slowed in extra time and the play became cagey once more.

After 98 minutes, Al-Hilal’s two Al-Dawsaris combined down the left but the goalscorer pulled his shot just wide. As you might expect, the Asian champions made almost all the running in the 30 minutes of extra time but were just not able to find a way through.

And so to penalties. The shootout started well for the favorites as Al-Mayouf saved the first spot kick but Ighalo failed to capitalize, hitting the bar. After Al-Fayha got off the mark by scoring their second penalty, Al-Faraj blasted his attempt wide and it was all uphill from there for Al-Hilal, especially after Stojkovic then saved well from Abdullah Al-Hamdan.

In the end, it was left to Tachtsidis to fire home with his left foot, giving Al-Fayha the win and the first major trophy in club history.

Al-Hilal are now left to focus on the league, starting with a massive clash against leaders Al-Ittihad on Monday.


Italy cheers again as Oldani grabs Genoa Giro victory

Italy cheers again as Oldani grabs Genoa Giro victory
Updated 20 May 2022

Italy cheers again as Oldani grabs Genoa Giro victory

Italy cheers again as Oldani grabs Genoa Giro victory
  • The race was conducted at breakneck speed with 53km covered in the first hour, the winner crossing the finish line 30 minutes ahead of even the fastest prediction

GENOA, ITALY: Downtown crowds cheered Italy’s Stefano Oldani home as he broke clear for his first professional win on stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday, while surprise Spaniard Juan Pedro Lopez held the leader’s pink jersey.

Oldani was too fast for fellow breakaway riders Lorenzo Rota and Gijs Leemreize after a breakaway on a high-speed 204km romp from Parma, across the Appenine mountains and north to Genoa.

After making it two wins in two days for Italy, a euphoric Oldani said he joined the early breakaway to aid teammate Mathieu van der Poel, a fan favorite due to his peloton-splitting attacks, but who missed the cut on the last climb as three riders broke off from an original group of 20 escapees.

Stars for the day, the three were cheered home along a festive town center route.

“I wanted it so badly,” said the 24-year-old.

“When I realized that I’d won a stage on the Giro there was a wave of emotion that I couldn’t hold back.”

The race was conducted at breakneck speed with 53km covered in the first hour, the winner crossing the finish line 30 minutes ahead of even the fastest prediction.

Giro rookie Lopez held the race lead for a ninth day, nursing his advantage from his escape to Mount Etna on stage 4.

“Luckily the weather conditions are my favorites, like at my home in south of Spain,” Lopez said, with Italy enjoying warmer than usual May weather.

“Nine days in the Maglia Rosa is a lot! But I wouldn’t mind some more.”

Lopez rolled across the finish line with the main contenders 09min 08sec after Oldani.

Less than 20 seconds separate a clutch of potential Giro winners with Richard Carapaz of Ineos Grenadiers, Mikel Landa of Bahrain Victorious and Romain Bardet of DSM the most credible candidates.

In a rare occurence Wilco Kelderman hauled himself back into the overall reckoning reckoning gaining eight minutes as part of the escape to make up for his meltdown on the Blockhaus mountain last Sunday.

Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan left the Giro empty handed ahead of the stage when he became the 14th rider so far to drop out.

Ewan fell on day one and failed to add to his five stage wins here on previous editions.

Along the route for stage 12 the Giro remembered Belgian sprinter Wouter Weylantdt on the Apennine Passo del Bocco, where he died during a stage in 2011.

Friday’s stage 13 is a largely flat 150km run from San Remo to Cuneo, where a sprint finish is the most likely outcome.

Over the weekend Saturday’s treacherous hilly stage should shake up the standings while Sunday’s mountain climb is a slog to a summit finish at over 1500m at Cogne in the Aosta Valley north of Turin.