Eddie Howe hopes Newcastle relegation battles are a thing of the past

Special Eddie Howe hopes Newcastle relegation battles are a thing of the past
Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe shakes hands with Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta at St. James’ Park, Newcastle, England, May 16, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 17 May 2022

Eddie Howe hopes Newcastle relegation battles are a thing of the past

Eddie Howe hopes Newcastle relegation battles are a thing of the past
  • A remarkable second half of the season saw the Magpies coach lead the club to safety after the team had failed to win any of the opening 14 matches
  • Eddie Howe: I have an idea of what I want to do and where I want to take the team and the changes we need to make

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe hopes this season is the last Newcastle United fans will have to worry about Premier League safety.

The Magpies secured their top flight status with two games of the campaign left, having failed to win any of their first 14 top matches. A 2-0 victory over Champions League-chasing Arsenal was the icing on the cake on what has been a remarkable season in many ways.

And while that season-opening run and the subsequent recovery set Newcastle Premier League records, Howe does not want to walk that same road again, with his eyes fixed firmly on progress and ambition at St James’ Park.

Howe, whose side plays Burnley on the final day of the season on Sunday, said: “There are no guarantees in football and that’s what makes the game so beautiful because you never know what’s around the corner.

“We have ambitions to improve, so I hope we’re not in this position again of fighting through the season. The Premier League is so difficult, it examines you in so many different ways. The competition is fierce, everyone will have different aims and dreams.

“All I can pledge is I will do everything in my power to make sure we come back a stronger team but there are no guarantees.”

While Howe is playing it coy with his future predictions, the ambitions of the ownership model at Newcastle is clear — they want regular success and silverware on Tyneside before the decade is out.

“They care. They care deeply,” said Howe of the club’s owners, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media.

“They care about the players and staff, they want to be involved and be actively helping. They were that way right from the start.

“After (the defeat to) Cambridge, they (Amanda Staveley, Mehrdad Ghodoussi and Yasir Al-Rumayyan) came to see me and the staff, of course at that moment, we were low. It meant a lot to see them come in and support us and say ‘come on, we go again.’ The week after was Watford and they supported us again.

“When you look back after a successful period, those moments are so important. A big thank you to them.”

Lots of public talk of reduced budgets and Financial Fair Play concerns have been raised by Newcastle sources in recent weeks, leading some to conclude it will be a frugal summer on Tyneside.

However, a hard-and-fast rule in business is not to tell potential sellers just how much cash you’re operating with.

The club’s accounts for the period ended Jun. 30, 2021, prior to Mike Ashley’s majority sale to PIF, show the football club made a loss of around $15 million.

Under the Premier League’s Profit and Sustainability rules, club’s can operate a $131 million loss over three seasons.

The 34 pages posted to the club’s filing history on Companies House also show that since acquisition, the club’s owners have pumped $209,500 into the company, which, although not stated, is likely to have covered operating costs, infrastructural upgrades and January transfers as well as the hiring of Howe and the sacking of Steve Bruce.

So is Howe expecting a tough summer, or one another record-breaking spend?

“It’s very difficult to plan a summer transfer window because as I’ve said before, of the unpredictability of the market,” he said.

“Of course, I have an idea of what I want to do and where I want to take the team and the changes we need to make. That’s one thing having that idea in your head but the other is executing it. We’ll see what happens.”


Al-Hilal’s winning DNA: 5 things learned as Riyadh giants claimed 2021-22 Saudi Pro League title

Al-Hilal’s winning DNA: 5 things learned as Riyadh giants claimed 2021-22 Saudi Pro League title
Updated 28 June 2022

Al-Hilal’s winning DNA: 5 things learned as Riyadh giants claimed 2021-22 Saudi Pro League title

Al-Hilal’s winning DNA: 5 things learned as Riyadh giants claimed 2021-22 Saudi Pro League title
  • Asian champions have completed remarkable turnaround since February to wipe away 16-point deficit on an Al-Ittihad team now left to rue season after looking certainties for championship

RIYADH: Al-Hilal are champions of Saudi Arabia once again, having at one point looked dead and buried as Jeddah rivals Al-Ittihad held a seemingly insurmountable 16-point lead over them.

But the Riyadh giants are not champions of Asia and the Kingdom for nothing and proved that they remain the country’s worthy champions.

The 2021-22 Saudi Professional League season ended on Monday night, and here are five things — and there could be many, many more — learned from the final action of the campaign.

1. Winning is in Al-Hilal’s DNA

Three successive title wins make it 18 in total. Love them or hate them – and there are plenty in both groups – there is no denying that Al-Hilal know how to win games, and titles.

Eleven victories out of the last 12 is an amazing run, especially when it came after a demanding season with FIFA Club World Cup and Asian Champions League commitments. They usually find a way to find a way.

The 2-1 victory over Al-Faisaly summed up what has been a dramatic campaign. There has been so much action in injury time this season, so many late winning goals and controversies, and Monday was no different.

Al-Hilal may win but they do not always make it easy. There was a goal in each half from Odion Ighalo, who was razor sharp and showed why he finished as the league’s leading goalscorer, but the men from Dammam grabbed a goal back and then there were plenty of nerves for Al-Hilal’s fans.

The game, and the season, ended after 100 minutes with the referee standing by the pitchside monitor looking at a possible penalty for Al-Faisaly. It was not given and that was that. It was a fitting way to end an amazing season.

2. Al-Ittihad will never forget this

This fact will be repeated for years to come; Al-Ittihad were 16 points clear of Al-Hilal in February and they ended up two points behind when it mattered.

Nobody could have predicted that Al-Hilal would take 33 points from the last 36 available but even so, the Tigers had it in the bag. Then they went and dropped 13 points from the last eight games and that is not the form of champions. The 0-0 draw with struggling Al-Batin in the final game of the season summed it all up.

They had so much attacking talent in Igor Coronado, Abderrazak Hamdallah, and Romarinho but they just could not make it happen and the game, similar to the season, petered out with disappointment. As well as the two recent defeats against the champions, coach Cosmin Contra will look back at that 4-4 draw with Al-Feiha in May, when the team threw away a 3-1 lead, as a turning point. It meant there were just five points from the final five games.

The wait for the title now stretches back to 2009. That hurts, as was demonstrated by the tears of goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe at the end, and this does too but, in football, there is always next season.

3. Al-Ahli make unthinkable history

A 0-0 draw at Al-Shabab resulted in Al-Ahli being relegated for the first time in their history. It is truly shocking that the three-time champions, the latest triumph coming just six years ago, and two-time Asian runners-up are now in the second tier.

Two years ago, they were third, then eighth, and now 15th – the drift has been coming. There were reports of dressing room unrest in the past, coaches coming and going, and then injuries at unfortunate times, and when you throw in a poor start with five points from the first seven games then maybe ultimate relegation should not come as such a big shock.

Had they won one of the four games they drew in the final five, things would have been different. This time even the reliable Omar Al-Somah could not save them despite a talented supporting cast that included Ezgjan Alioski, Carlos Eduardo, Abdulrahman Ghareeb, and many others.

For a club that has been drifting, it could be that relegation is the wake-up call they need, but maybe not. The next few weeks will be tough.

4. The relegation battle was quietly dramatic

Going into the final round of games there were seven teams who were genuinely threatened by relegation. It was an amazing position for the league to be in and there were so many twists and turns.

It was not quite the explosive last day that the neutrals had been hoping for as there were not that many goals, with only 14 scored over the eight games.

But there was quiet drama and tension. At any time, had Al-Ahli scored, they would have climbed out of the bottom three. If Al-Faisaly had managed one more, then they would have done the same. If Ettifaq had conceded just once against Al-Feiha then they would have gone down. Had Al-Ittihad scored then it would have meant the end for Al-Batin.

Rarely has there been so much at stake for so many teams going into the final seconds of the season. It has been a long season, more than 10 months, but it was alive right until the end.

5. Al-Nassr and Al-Shabab not far away

For much of the season, the two Riyadh teams were in touch at the top and it was only the amazing winning streaks, first from Al-Ittihad and then from Al-Hilal, that took them out of the hunt.

In the end though, Al-Nassr finished just four points behind the runners-up from Jeddah and six points behind the champions. With the club ready to appoint French coach Rudi Garcia, next season should be an interesting one, and there will be a lot of fans looking to see if the club can keep hold of Talisca, who scored 20 goals in his first season in Saudi Arabia. Recovering from injury, Pity Martinez has started to show the talents that made him a big-money signing back in 2020.

Al-Shabab know what it is like to lose big players after top scorer Odion Ighalo left for Al-Hilal at the end of January and a fourth-place finish seems about right as they lacked a little consistency. These third- and fourth-place teams need to keep their biggest talents and recruit well in the coming weeks. Then they should be ready for a title challenge next time around. This year, they were not far away.


Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro international tour arrives in Fujairah this weekend

Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro international tour arrives in Fujairah this weekend
Updated 56 min 59 sec ago

Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro international tour arrives in Fujairah this weekend

Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro international tour arrives in Fujairah this weekend
  • The contest, which caters to various age groups and experience levels, is part of a 160-plus event global tour, five legs of which will take place in the UAE this season
  • The action begins on Saturday with the teens, youth, and men’s masters categories, and concludes on Sunday with the amateur and professional contests

FUJAIRAH: The Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro International Championship arrives in Fujairah this weekend, where hundreds of competitors from clubs and academies will battle it out in various categories, including teens, youth, men’s masters, amateurs and professionals

The AJP Tour Fujairah International Pro, which will take place at Zayed Sports Complex on July 2 and 3, is part of a season-long, 160-plus event global tour, five legs of which are being held in the UAE during the 2022 season.

The Fujairah event is organized by the AJP in cooperation with the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Sharqi, the crown prince of the emirate.

Youssef Abdullah Al-Batran, a board member of the UAEJJF, said the AJP tournaments in the UAE are among the most important sporting events held in the Emirates.

“This championship attracts the participation of hundreds of competitors across all categories, with different age and weight groups,” he said.

“The skill levels of the participants vary so it provides great opportunities for athletes to compete against a range of opponents. This can only help their preparations for future championships.”

The action begins on Saturday with the teens, youth, and men’s masters categories, and concludes on Sunday with the amateur and professional contests. The winners of each category are awarded 600 ranking points.

Tariq Al-Bahri, the general manager of AJP, said: “The competitors are eagerly waiting for the start of this championship because of its importance and direct impact on their classification, as well as their advancement on the annual rankings ladder.

“This will pave the way for them to qualify and participate in the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.”


Extra time given for bids to host soccer’s 2023 Asian Cup

Extra time given for bids to host soccer’s 2023 Asian Cup
Updated 28 June 2022

Extra time given for bids to host soccer’s 2023 Asian Cup

Extra time given for bids to host soccer’s 2023 Asian Cup
  • The AFC said it extended a deadline to July 15 from June 30
  • The four-yearly Asian Cup is typically played in January

KUALA LUMPUR: Countries wanting to replace China as host of soccer’s 2023 Asian Cup were given extra time to prepare a bid by the Asian Football Confederation on Tuesday.
The AFC said it extended a deadline to July 15 from June 30 for member federations to show interest.
South Korea has said it wants to host the 24-nation tournament which was due to kick off in June next year. The four-yearly Asian Cup is typically played in January.
China gave up last month the 2023 hosting rights it was awarded in 2019, making it the latest international sports event canceled in the pandemic amid the country’s “zero-COVID” policy.
The 2023 host is being chosen during a lengthy bidding process for the 2027 Asian Cup which shapes as a contest between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. India and Iran have also bid.
The AFC executive committee is set to pick the 2023 host this year, before member federations vote for the 2027 host early next year.


ROKiT hoping Marrakech E-Prix is springboard to title success in second half of Formula E season

ROKiT hoping Marrakech E-Prix is springboard to title success in second half of Formula E season
Updated 28 June 2022

ROKiT hoping Marrakech E-Prix is springboard to title success in second half of Formula E season

ROKiT hoping Marrakech E-Prix is springboard to title success in second half of Formula E season
  • Circuit International Automobile Moulay El-Hassan in Marrakech presents a unique challenge for all drivers
  • Semi-permanent track marks return of Formula E World Championship to Morocco

LONDON: The Circuit International Automobile Moulay El-Hassan in Marrakech presents a unique challenge for Formula E teams and drivers alike, and ROKiT Venturi team principal Jerome D’Ambrosio hopes it will act as a springboard for a successful FIA World Championship title drive come the end of the season.

The semi-permanent racing facility will mark the return of the Formula E World Championship to Morocco, and both ROKiT drivers are looking forward to testing their skills on the nearly-three kilometer track.

“After a month away from the track, the team is rested and ready for the big final push this season in which we will complete a total of seven races in only seven weeks,” D’Ambrosio said.

“Since Berlin, we have built a good momentum and this weekend, the goal is to maintain that form.

Marrakech is a circuit that we haven’t raced at since Season 6 but having raced there several times, it’s a circuit that we hold a lot of historic data from.

This will form the basis of our understanding and as always, the goal is to qualify well and score a good haul of points, consistency is the most important aspect of performance at this stage of the season and we will make sure to keep that in mind going into this weekend,” he added.

Title-hopeful Edoardo Mortara got the team's best finish at the circuit in 2020, crossing the line in fifth place. 

“After our podium in Jakarta, I’m really looking forward to taking to the track in Marrakech and capitalizing on the form we know we’re capable of,” he said. 

“Since Berlin, we have been able to establish some good momentum but this definitely doesn’t mean that we can relax.

“We need to take the same approach for this weekend as usual and we know that we have the potential to finish well – we just need to execute a clean race and see where we end up,” he added.

His teammate, Lucas di Grassi, said getting the balance of the car in the hot Moroccan weather will be key. 

“Since the beginning of the season we have shown that we have strong race pace but Marrakech will be very hot so the correct thermal management of the car, tyres and batteries will be critical to unlocking success during the race this weekend,” he said. 

“We’ve prepared really well so I feel confident that a podium finish is within our reach.

“My focus now is to perform at my best and win as many races as possible from now until the end of the season,” he added.


Hamilton calls for action after Piquet’s racist slur

Hamilton calls for action after Piquet’s racist slur
Updated 28 June 2022

Hamilton calls for action after Piquet’s racist slur

Hamilton calls for action after Piquet’s racist slur
  • Lewis Hamilton: ‘These archaic mindsets need to change and have no place in our sport’
  • Nelson Piquet’s daughter, Kelly, is Max Verstappen’s partner

LONDON: Lewis Hamilton said the “time has come for action” after being the subject of a racially offensive term used by three-time Formula One world champion Nelson Piquet.
Formula One and motorsport’s governing body the FIA condemned the 69-year-old Brazilian, who made the comments during a podcast.
“It’s more than language,” Hamilton tweeted. “These archaic mindsets need to change and have no place in our sport.
“I’ve been surrounded by these attitudes and targeted my whole life. There has been plenty of time to learn. Time has come for action.”
In a separate tweet, Hamilton posted in Portuguese: “Let’s focus on changing the mindset.”
Piquet, who won the world title in 1981, 1983 and 1987, was discussing an accident between Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on the first lap of last year’s British Grand Prix when he used the term.
His daughter, Kelly, is Verstappen’s partner.
“Discriminatory or racist language is unacceptable in any form and has no part in society,” Formula One said in a statement.
“Lewis is an incredible ambassador for our sport and deserves respect.
“His tireless efforts to increase diversity and inclusion are a lesson to many and something we are committed to at F1.”
In a statement, the FIA said: “The FIA strongly condemns any racist or discriminatory language and behavior, which have no place in sport or wider society.
“We express our solidarity with Lewis Hamilton and fully support his commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion in motor sport.”
Hamilton, the only black driver on the grid, has been an outspoken campaigner for greater diversity in the sport.
The seven-time world champion regularly displayed “black lives matter” on his apparel and took the knee before races in the 2020 season following the murder of George Floyd in the USA.
Hamilton has also campaigned for LGBTQ+ rights and on environmental issues.
“We condemn in the strongest terms any use of racist or discriminatory language of any kind,” Mercedes, Hamilton’s team, said in a statement.
“Lewis has spearheaded our sport’s efforts to combat racism, and he is a true champion of diversity on and off track.
“Together, we share a vision for a diverse and inclusive motorsport, and this incident underlines the fundamental importance of continuing to strive for a brighter future.”
Hamilton is back in action on home soil this weekend for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.