The challenges ahead: Excitement builds in Newcastle for next Premier League season

The challenges ahead: Excitement builds in Newcastle for next Premier League season
Newcastle United’s head coach Eddie Howe is keen to hit the ground running in the coming season, in stark contrast to the debacle overseen by Steve Bruce at the start of the last one. (AFP)
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Updated 18 June 2022

The challenges ahead: Excitement builds in Newcastle for next Premier League season

The challenges ahead: Excitement builds in Newcastle for next Premier League season
  • Newly-promoted Nottingham Forest are first up at St. James’ Park
  • A tough first month also sees Manchester City visit Newcastle, as well as a trip to Anfield to face Liverpool

NEWCASTLE: Excitement for the new Premier League season is increasing on Tyneside.
As is the to-do list for Newcastle United’s owners.
Less than two weeks away from the return of the first-team squad to the club’s current ‘under-development’ training facility in Benton, North Tyneside, next season’s top flight fixtures have been released.
Newly-promoted Nottingham Forest, back in the top division for the first time in more than two decades, are first up at St. James’ Park, while a tough first month also sees Manchester City visit Newcastle, as well as a trip to Anfield to face Liverpool.
Head coach Eddie Howe is keen to hit the ground running in the coming season, in stark contrast to the debacle overseen by Steve Bruce at the start of the last one.
Pre-takeover, and in the first few weeks after the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia swept through the doors, Newcastle failed to win any of their opening 14 games of the 2021/22 season — the worst start of any team in Premier League history to have subsequently avoided relegation.
And Howe is keen to avoid any such issues this time out as he looks to build a squad capable of flirting with, if perhaps not yet reaching, the Premier League’s European places.
But what is required this summer to even get close to that? Here, we take a look at what Howe, co-owner Amanda Staveley and newly-appointed sporting director Dan Ashworth need to prioritize before the new season kicks off.

An injection of goals needed
One thing Newcastle United seriously lacked last season was goals. Only the bottom six plus Brighton and Wolves scored less in the 38-game campaign.
And one of the biggest headaches for Howe — and Bruce before him — last season was the fitness, or lack of it, of center forward Callum Wilson.
At his fit-and-firing best the big number nine is a match for any English striker in the division, with the exception of Harry Kane. But his injury record is cause for concern. Wilson missed four months of last season and more than two months the season before, but still managed to finish both seasons as the club’s top goalscorer.
Sadly, there is no reason to think that Wilson’s injury record will significantly improve next season, but this summer United have the power to arm themselves for when the inevitable injury absence crops up.
While Chris Wood gave his all as a stand in from January onwards, he is a limited striker and United must look to upgrade.

Clear out the dead wood
This may be Ashworth, Howe and Staveley’s most difficult mountain to climb this summer.
In order for United to add quality to their 25-man Premier League squad they must trim some fat, and that’s without even starting to look at those players who sit outside the main group.
The likes of Dwight Gayle, Federico Fernandez and Javier Manquillo are players likely to prove surplus to requirements this summer — but all three have years left on their deals and are sitting pretty on significant wages.
Gayle was a saleable asset when Newcastle first looked to move him on under previous owner Mike Ashley. But with Ashley unwilling to accept offers in the region of $18million from the likes of Fulham and West Bromwich Albion for the player — and manager Rafa Benitez failing to trust Ashley would allow him that money to find a replacement — Gayle became United’s great survivor.
Three or four years later, with little to no playing time under his belt, and even less goals, United are going to find it tough to find takers for a player who is on an inflated Premier League wage but looks most comfortable operating at Championship level.
Fernandez and Manquillo were both handed new deals under Bruce, and are also on top flight wages. It may be that Newcastle have to agree to pay a percentage of their wages, just to get them off the books.
Outside of the 25, there are the likes of Freddie Woodman, Ciaran Clark, Jeff Hendrick, and others who could boost the coffers for a summer first-team revamp.

Go deep or stand still
Howe’s biggest issue with his Newcastle squad is that he does not believe it has the depth enjoyed by, for example, Brighton, Wolverhampton Wanderers or Aston Villa — never mind the top six or seven clubs in the division.
There is a sense that an injection of confidence and team spirit carried the side through the back end of the last campaign, driving the club from a likely bottom-four finish to 11th place.
If United want to take that next step, they need to add depth, particularly in key positions.
For example, should goalkeeper Martin Dubravka get injured, Newcastle must be able to call on a better deputy than 31-year-old Karl Darlow, as good a servant as he has been to the club.
As mentioned, an understudy to Wilson is also a must, as is cover for another of United’s injury-prone stars, winger Allan Saint-Maximin. Some depth in the center of defense is also necessary.

Don’t accept the ‘Newcastle Tax’
This summer’s transfer window is as important as any in the club’s history, and it is paramount that they do not set a dangerous precedent. Overpay for players this summer and they will be overpaying for the next 10 years; smash the wage structure for a single player and they will have 10 more knocking on the door for a raise. The club’s phones will also be hot with agents from around the world looking for their cut of the action.
Newcastle’s custodians, led by Staveley and husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi, seem to have their heads firmly on their shoulders and want the club to build sustainably.
They do not want a quick fix of the kind that happened at Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, nor do they want to fall into the Financial Fair Play trap that Everton find themselves in at the moment.
It needs to be made clear this summer that Newcastle is not a cash cow ripe for milking. They must not be taken for a ride in the transfer market.

Resolve ticketing issues and shine a light on future plans
Newcastle United had more than 120,000 ticket requests for the first game after the Saudi-financed takeover, a home loss to Tottenham Hotspur back in October. There is clearly huge demand for tickets in the city and beyond.
Anyone who knows English football knows Newcastle United. Even though Newcastle is only a small city, home to less than 300,000 people, it has one of the largest and loyalist fan bases in the world.
Give them hope and they will come.
But the issue surrounding tickets needs to be resolved quickly. The Magpies have always, from the 1990s onwards, had a steady stream of more than 30,000 season ticket holders, which has maxed out — due to the need for away allocations, corporate seating, et cetera — at more than 40,000 as recently as during Benitez’s reign. The stadium itself only holds 52,000.
So here’s the issue: How do the 10,000 or so tickets sold on a matchday get divided up next season? Will they go on general sale on a game-by-game basis or will season ticket opportunities be opened up again? Keeping the fans happy on this divisive subject is going to be a tough issue to navigate. A clear long-term plan for stadium redevelopment needs to be outlined, as demand is already far outweighing supply — and that’s before the party has even started.

Delegation: The need for an improved football executive
Ashworth’s appointment as sporting director has taken some of the summer transfer burden off Howe. But United must go further. Staveley and Ghodoussi have been acting as co-chief executives at the club, with no one left to do the job. They allowed former managing director Lee Charnley to leave not long after completing the purchase of the club.
A new MD needs to found. And that needed to be done yesterday.
Running a football club is no easy business, and it is even harder when feet are light on the ground. An immediate beefing-up of the whole football operation is required and some delegation of tasks needed to free Staveley and Ghodoussi to do what they do best.

Continue to build on the foundations — the Ashworth effect
When Ashley departed, he left a near-clean slate behind him: A stadium ripe for improvement, a training ground in a similarly unloved state, a youth setup in need of direction; and a first team lacking any clear plan or purpose.
While some of those issues have already been addressed, others cannot be allowed to drift. And that’s where Ashworth — a pioneer of the Football Association’s ‘England DNA’ program — steps in.
Training ground developments must go much further than the material, there must be a structural framework implemented that squeezes the most from the football-mad region that Newcastle United is at the heart of.
Newcastle and its surrounding areas have produced some of the most revered talent in English football history. Two of the nation’s 1966 World Cup-winning starting XI were Geordies — the brothers Jack and Bobby Charlton — and generational talents including Alan Shearer, Paul Gascoigne and Peter Beardsley all hailed from the city and its surrounds.
The next Shearer, Beardsley or Gazza is out there, but this club, for too long, has been unable to unearth them. That has to change, especially if the future is to shine as brightly as PIF, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media want it to.
 


Chun balloons to 75 as her lead shrinks to 3 at Women’s PGA Championship

Chun balloons to 75 as her lead shrinks to 3 at Women’s PGA Championship
Updated 8 sec ago

Chun balloons to 75 as her lead shrinks to 3 at Women’s PGA Championship

Chun balloons to 75 as her lead shrinks to 3 at Women’s PGA Championship
  • On a day the leaders had plenty of trouble, Chun was holding her own until she made a double bogey on the par-5 16th hole

BETHESDA, Maryland, USA: This was the moment the rest of the field needed: In Gee Chun standing near the trees, contemplating her situation and then eventually heading back to the point of her previous shot.

A shaky third round cut her lead at the Women’s PGA Championship in half.

Chun shot a 3-over 75 on Saturday, leaving her three strokes ahead going into the final round at Congressional Country Club. On a day the leaders had plenty of trouble, Chun was holding her own until she made a double bogey on the par-5 16th hole.

“Looking forward to an exciting final round already,” she said. “If it’s going to be too easy, then I feel it is boring.”

It looked like the final round might be boring — or at least anticlimactic — as Chun maintained a comfortable lead through much of Saturday. She bogeyed Nos. 1 and 11 but birdied 2 and 12. Her lead was at five when she had to play her third shot from some tall grass on the 564-yard 16th.

That shot put her in even more trouble, in an area with tall grass and some trees. She took an unplayable lie and went back to the previous spot to re-hit.

An 8-iron from there went over the green, but Chun did manage to get up and down for a 7. The two-time major champion from South Korea led by five shots after the first round and six at the halfway point. After the third round, she had an 8-under 208 total.

Lydia Ko (76) and Jennifer Kupcho (74) — Chun’s playing partners — had their own problems, but Lexi Thompson and Hye-Jin Choi both shot 70 and were tied for second with Sei Young Kim (71) at 5 under.

Thompson will play in the final group as she tries for her first major victory since 2014.

“You always want to be in the final group in any tournament,” she said. “I love that the hard work has been able to pay off for me. I’ve been putting in the time, so to see it pay off and pay dividends means the world to me.”

Ko wasn’t able to take advantage of Chun’s struggles. She bogeyed four of five holes during one stretch on the front nine, then birdied four of the next seven. She wrapped up the round with four straight bogeys.

Kupcho had three birdies and three bogeys in the first seven holes and couldn’t gain much ground on the leader.

Kim, who won this event two years ago, had a comparatively drama-free round with two birdies and a bogey. Choi shot 34 on the back nine while playing in a group with Thompson. They’ll be together again Sunday.

“It was the first time playing with her, and I actually watched her as a fan when I was an amateur,” Choi said. “It was a good experience to play with her. Of course, I tried to focus on my game.”

Thompson made three birdies on the back nine, including a putt from about 30 feet on No. 15. She has 11 LPGA Tour victories but none since 2019. She’s played her way into contention after a first-round 74.

Thompson finished second at Crown Colony in February and at Upper Montclair last month.

“I know I’m in a good state with my game and just my mental state, so going out tomorrow enjoying the walk with my caddie and hopefully a lot of fans out there supporting us,” she said. “Whatever score I shoot, I shoot.”

Hannah Green (72) was fifth at 4 under, a stroke ahead of Atthaya Thitikul (68), who was so far behind at the start of the day she was in one of the groups sent off on No. 10. Brooke Henderson (73), Kupcho and Jennifer Chang (73) were tied for sixth with Thitikul.

NOTES: US Women’s Open champ Minjee Lee (73) was 2 under. ... Defending champion Nelly Korda (72) was tied for 29th.


Schauffele leaves it late to retain Travelers lead

Schauffele leaves it late to retain Travelers lead
Updated 7 min 23 sec ago

Schauffele leaves it late to retain Travelers lead

Schauffele leaves it late to retain Travelers lead
  • Schauffele is looking forward to a final round duel against close friend and Ryder Cup playing partner Cantlay

NEW YORK: Xander Schauffele produced a late birdie spree to hold onto a slender lead at the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship Saturday with a 3-under par 67.

Schauffele, who led by five shots after Friday’s second round, will take a one-shot advantage into Sunday’s final round at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut.

But the 28-year-old from California left it late to ensure he would remain on top of the leaderboard on Saturday with a pair of birdies on the 16th and 17th holes to drop to 17 under for the tournament.

He rolled in a 16-foot birdie putt at the par-3 16th and then drilled an iron from the fairway to a few feet for a further birdie on the 17th.

That ultimately allowed Schauffele to finish the day just in front of red-hot Patrick Cantlay, who had a bogey-free 7-under 63 to move to 16 under.

Schauffele is looking forward to a final round duel against close friend and Ryder Cup playing partner Cantlay.

“It will be fun. I’ve been looking forward to playing with Pat in a final round,” he said.

“We don’t get paired together very often in regular tournaments, only in those team ones.

“So there’s a certain level of comfort we have playing with each other and hopefully that pays off and hopefully we can make a lot of birdies.”

Cantlay was similarly enthused by the prospect of a final day shootout with his friend.

“We actually haven’t played that much together in tournament play, maybe only three times in the last three, four years. So it will be good to go out there again with him,” Cantlay said.

“It’s always nice to be out with him, if he’s on my team or if he’s not. I’m going to go out there tomorrow and try as hard as I can and let the chips fall where they may.”

Sahith Theegala is three off the lead on 14 under after his six-under-par 64.

The highlight of Theegala’s round came with a brilliant eagle three on the par-5 13th, when he reached the green in two before rolling in an 11-foot putt.

The only blemish on an otherwise flawless round came at the 18th, where he made bogey.

Kevin Kisner is one behind Theegala on 13 under after his four-under-par 66.

Scotland’s Martin Laird is tied for fifth with Lee Kyoung-hoon on 12 under. Laird and Lee both carded four-under-par 66s.

Four players including first round co-leader J.T. Poston are tied for seventh on 11 under, while Scottie Scheffler heads a quartet on 10 under after a five-under-par 65.

But there was more disappointment for Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy.

The four-time major-winner who shot an 8-under 62 in the first round had fallen away on Friday after a second round that included a quadruple bogey eight on the 12th hole.

McIlroy navigated his return to the 12th safely on Saturday with a par, but was already struggling after making a double-bogey and bogey on the front nine.

Two more bogeys on the 14th and 16th holes left him tied for 31st place on six under, 11 shots off the lead.


McLaughlin books athletics worlds berth with 400m hurdles world record

McLaughlin books athletics worlds berth with 400m hurdles world record
Updated 26 June 2022

McLaughlin books athletics worlds berth with 400m hurdles world record

McLaughlin books athletics worlds berth with 400m hurdles world record
  • McLaughlin's performance capped a day of 11 finals and a farewell to the US championships for Olympic great Allyson Felix — 21 years after she ran in her first
  • Olympic champion Lamont Marcell Jacobs was not at his best but took victory in 10.12 seconds, four hundredths of a second quicker than second-place Chituru Ali, after posting 10.17sec in the heats

EUGENE, OREGON: Sydney McLaughlin punched her ticket to the athletics World Championships with a world record 51.41sec victory in the 400m hurdles at the US trials on Saturday.

McLaughlin shaved five-hundredths of a second off the world record of 51.46 she set in winning Tokyo Olympics gold last Aug. 4, delivering a dominant performance at Eugene’s Hayward Field that saw runner-up Britton Wilson cross the line more than a second back in 53.08sec.

Shamier Little was third in 53.92. The trio will represent the US on the same Hayward Field track in July — when reigning world champion Dalilah Muhammad also aims to defend her title.

With a bye as champion Muhammad — who beat McLaughlin in Doha in 2019 but took silver behind her in Tokyo — received a waiver to skip the trials to recover from a hamstring injury.

McLaughlin showed she didn’t need her great rival to push her to new heights in this championship season.

Her performance capped a day of 11 finals and a farewell to the US championships for Olympic great Allyson Felix — 21 years after she ran in her first.

Felix finished sixth in the 400m, making her almost certain to earn consideration for a relay at the World Championships.

Felix is calling time on a career that includes 29 world and Olympic medals — including seven Olympic golds.

After a gritty semifinal performance to earn a place in the final, Felix — greeted by a massive ovation — clocked 51.27sec.

Talitha Diggs, daughter of four-time Olympian Joetta Clark-Diggs and the NCAA collegiate champion, used a powerful finishing kick to win the women’s 400m in 50.22, overhauling early pace-setter Lynna Irby and Kendall Ellis in the final 20 meters.

Ellis took second in 50.35 and Irby was third in 50.67.

Michael Norman, seeking World Championships gold to help expunge the memory of a disappointing fifth-place finish at the Tokyo Games, delivered an emphatic victory in the men’s 400m with a world-leading 43.56sec.

NCAA collegiate title holder Champion Allison broke 44 seconds for the first time, taking second in 43.70, with Randolph Ross third in 44.17.

World record-holder Keni Harrison won the 100m hurdles in another world-leading time of 12.34sec. Alaysha Johnson was second in 12.35 and Alia Armstrong was third in 12.47.

World champion Nia Ali opted out of the final but will complete the formidable US contingent in the event next month.

In other events, world 200m champion Noah Lyles clocked 19.95sec to top the first-round times, and revealed he was rebounding from a bout with Covid.

Lyles said he learned after his win in New York on June 12 that he had coronavirus, not realizing until after the event that his muscle soreness and chills were symptoms of illness.

“To be honest I’m so in shape I’m not too worried about it,” Lyles said.

Erriyon Knighton, who owns the fastest time in the world this year of a 19.49, was second-fastest in the heats in 20.08.

Reigning 100m world champion Christian Coleman advanced to the semis with a time of 20.13 but said he still wasn’t sure if he’d pursue a 100-200 double at worlds.

Fred Kerley, who dazzled with a 9.76sec semi on the way to winning the 100m on Friday, booked his 200m semifinal spot with a time of 20.29.

Abby Steiner, coming off a world-leading 21.80sec to win the NCAA collegiate title this month, topped the women’s 200m heat times in 22.14sec.

Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Gabby Thomas, who owns the third-fastest time in history, made it safely into the semis with the seventh-quickest time of the day 22.59.

Sha’Carri Richardson, who shockingly failed to advance from the 100m heats on Thursday, also advanced with a time of 22.69 — finishing second to Thomas in their heat.

Reigning world champion and Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Grant Holloway and Devon Allen stayed on course for a 110m hurdles showdown with the top two times in the heats.

Holloway, whose American record of 12.81 is one one-hundredth off the world record, won his heat in 13.11sec, second-fastest of the round ahead of recently crowned NCAA champion Trey Cunningham’s 13.13.

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Allen, who stunned Holloway with the third-fastest time in history of 12.84sec in New York two weeks ago, won his heat to qualify third-fastest in 13.27.

Olympic champion Jacobs wins Italian 100m title

In Rieti, Lazio, reigning Olympic champion Lamont Marcell Jacobs continued his preparations for next month’s World Championships by winning the Italian men’s 100 meters title on Saturday.

The 27-year-old was not at his best but took victory in 10.12 seconds, four hundredths of a second quicker than second-place Chituru Ali, after posting 10.17sec in the heats.

Jacobs, who also won the world 60m indoor title earlier this year, only ran his first two 100m races of the season last month in Savona.

“It was useful to resume competition,” he told RAI Sport on Saturday.

“I’m not yet able to manage a complete 100m, especially with two races in an hour. In training I had to do everything at a moderate pace.

“So it was more difficult to manage at a high intensity. In the closing stages, I had a little more trouble and decided to hold back a little to avoid any fitness problems.”

Jacobs is scheduled to run in Stockholm next Thursday before flying to the worlds which get underway in American city Eugene on July 15.

There, he will lock horns again with reigning world champion Christian Coleman, who he beat to the indoor title in Belgrade in March.


Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova, Fritz win Eastbourne titles

Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova, Fritz win Eastbourne titles
Updated 26 June 2022

Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova, Fritz win Eastbourne titles

Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova, Fritz win Eastbourne titles
  • Kvitova earned her first grass-court title in four years — and 29th trophy of her singles career — after breaking Ostapenko, the defending champion, early in both sets of the final and feasting on the Latvian’s second serve

EASTBOURNE, England: Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova tuned up for the Grand Slam tournament by overpowering Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 6-2 to win the Eastbourne title on Saturday.

Also, Taylor Fritz outlasted Maxime Cressy 6-2, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4) in an all-American men’s final for his second Eastbourne title.

Kvitova earned her first grass-court title in four years — and 29th trophy of her singles career — after breaking Ostapenko, the defending champion, early in both sets of the final and feasting on the Latvian’s second serve.

Kvitova saved five break points in the fourth game of the second set to stay in control of the match at 3-1.

“Playing on the grass is very special for me every time,” the Czech player said on court. “It’s the best preparation for Wimbledon, as well.”

Kvitova, the Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, begins another campaign on Tuesday against Jasmine Paolini of Italy.

She is 5-1 in grass-court finals. Her most recent was in 2018 in Birmingham.

The eighth-seeded Ostapenko, a Wimbledon semifinalist four years ago, won the 2017 French Open.

After the final, Ostapenko withdrew from the women’s doubles final alongside Ukrainian partner Lyudmyla Kichenok because of a toe problem on her right foot. The walkover handed the title to Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia and Magda Linette of Poland.

Ostapenko is the 12th seed at Wimbledon and has a first-round match scheduled on Monday against Oceane Dodin of France.

Fritz could rely on his serve in his first meeting with Cressy. Fritz didn’t face a break point in the final, he won 92 percent of his first serves, and launched 17 aces. Even so, it took him more than two hours to get on top of Cressy, who was playing his first ATP final. Fritz didn’t drop his serve all week.

“My grass season wasn’t going great before I arrived here,” Fritz said. “But it is great to beat these players and it gives me confidence. I played really well all week and going into Wimbledon, I feel good.”

Fritz, ranked 14th, won his third ATP title, second in Eastbourne beside 2019, and second this year after Indian Wells in March.

Fritz has drawn Lorenzo Musetti of Italy in the first round of Wimbledon next week.

Cressy, ranked 60th, has sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada.


Forest sign Nigeria forward from Union Berlin for club-record fee

Forest sign Nigeria forward from Union Berlin for club-record fee
Updated 26 June 2022

Forest sign Nigeria forward from Union Berlin for club-record fee

Forest sign Nigeria forward from Union Berlin for club-record fee
  • Taiwo Awoniyi scored 20 goals in 43 games in all competitions in his last season in the Bundesliga. He is Forest’s first senior signing since their victory over Huddersfield in the Championship playoff final

LONDON: Nottingham Forest have paid a club-record fee of around £17 million ($20 million) to Nigeria striker Taiwo Awoniyi from Union Berlin.

Awoniyi agreed a five-year contract with Forest, who are preparing for their first season back in the Premier League since 1999.

The 24-year-old scored 20 goals in 43 games in all competitions in his last season in the Bundesliga.

He is Forest’s first senior signing since their victory over Huddersfield in the Championship playoff final.

“There’s been a lot of interest in Taiwo from other Premier League clubs and other clubs across Europe, so we’re delighted that he’s chosen Nottingham Forest,” Forest boss Steve Cooper said.

“He’s a player who we really believe in and we look forward to him going on to fulfill his potential and become a top Premier League striker with Nottingham Forest.”

Awoniyi began his professional career at Liverpool before leaving last July, but did not make a first-team appearance for the Reds and was sent on loan several times.

Liverpool are set to receive 10 percent of the fee under the terms of his departure.

Awoniyi’s 15 goals in 31 Bundesliga matches helped Union Berlin secure a fifth-place finish and qualify for the Europa League for the first time since 2001-02.

“It’s always been my dream to play in the Premier League and, having spoken to Steve Cooper about our ambitions and looking at Forest with its great history, it’s a club that I want to be part of,” Awoniyi said.

Awoniyi won the first of his three caps for Nigeria against the Central African Republic last October and scored his first goal against Sudan in January at the African Cup of Nations.