Eddie Howe’s transfer plans shaped by Shelvey injury

Eddie Howe’s transfer plans shaped by Shelvey injury
Newcastle United’s midfielder Jonjo Shelvey (L) celebrates with Newcastle United’s defender Kieran Trippier (R) after scoring in January 2022. (AFP/File)
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Updated 12 August 2022

Eddie Howe’s transfer plans shaped by Shelvey injury

Eddie Howe’s transfer plans shaped by Shelvey injury
  • The 30-year-old’s absence for 12 weeks could force Magpies boss to sign a midfielder in addition to expected forward targets
  • Shelvey limped out of the Magpies’ 3-2 friendly loss to Benfica last month

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe has revealed the injury to midfielder Jonjo Shelvey could shape his Newcastle United transfer plans in the final weeks of the summer window.
Newcastle had been looking to add only two more players to their ranks with a wide forward and a young striker on their radar.
However, with creator Shelvey out for the next 12 weeks due to a hamstring surgery, Howe admits that he may have to consider building strength in that department.
“I wouldn’t say it was our main focus but it’s something in the back of our minds, if we need to do something then we have the capability of doing something in that position. But we have other positions that are more of a priority currently,” Howe said.
“I feel we have enough to cover his absence currently, but you know football, it can change very quickly. Losing Jonjo is a big blow, he’s been a huge player for us the last few seasons. He brings unique qualities in that midfield role.
“Bruno played in that position on Saturday and did very well and we do have other players — Sean’s played the position during pre-season and again done very well. He used the ball excellently. We have a couple of options but we’re going to miss Jonjo.”
Shelvey, a mainstay in the Newcastle starting line-up last season, limped out of the Magpies’ 3-2 friendly loss to Benfica last month and has since gone under the knife to rectify his injury.
Howe does intend to name the former Liverpool and England man in his 25-man Premier League squad for the first half the season, despite the fact he may only be able to play a handful of matches.
“It was quite a complex one,” said Howe of the 30-year-old’s injury.
“We had a number of scans and opinions because we wanted to make the right call. It wasn’t a clear or simple injury.
“He’s had an operation and is expected to be out around 12 weeks. He was very disappointed obviously, he worked very hard in pre-season and looked in really good physical shape.
“It was a real shame for him and for us but he’s on the road to recovery now and is in a much better place after the operation and before mentally. We’re looking forward to getting him back.”
While some fans are starting to get anxious about Newcastle’s lack of transfer action, Howe is not.
Newcastle have not signed any senior players since July 1 when Sven Botman was brought in from Lille for a fee of $36 million.
“I’m never relaxed. I’d love to bring somebody in or players in we feel can benefit the group and add to what we have. But, I’m not anxious about that currently,” said the Newcastle head coach.
“The squad is in a very good place, very confident. There’s a good feel about the group, good dynamic internally. We still have time.”
Asked if anything is imminent on the transfer front, with talk of Brazilian Lucas Paqueta again surfacing in recent days, Howe said: “I’m sorry to keep giving you the same answers, I want to give you a different response but I can’t. We’re no closer currently but hopefully in the next week or so, it might be different.”
For Newcastle to sign players, they would have to trim some senior players from their ranks.
The likes of Matt Ritchie, Karl Darlow, Matty Longstaff and Jamal Lewis could all be shown the door to free up space in United’s 25.
On outgoings, Howe said: “I’d say, the squad is and has been very consistent during training. Our numbers have been 21 or 22, which is where we want to be really, depending on knocks and injuries. I certainly wouldn’t want to be any weaker than that. I’d be reluctant to let anyone go currently without bringing someone in.
“With the younger guys that don’t currently train with us, we would be open for anybody to go if the loan was right for them but there is a couple of players I’d probably want to hold back who I feel could be part of our season next year.
“I do encourage the loan market — we see what it did for Elliot Anderson last year. It’s something I do passionately believe in, getting that experience under their belts will do them the world of good.”

Philippine court dismisses tax case against boxing legend Manny Pacquiao

Philippine court dismisses tax case against boxing legend Manny Pacquiao
Updated 11 sec ago

Philippine court dismisses tax case against boxing legend Manny Pacquiao

Philippine court dismisses tax case against boxing legend Manny Pacquiao
  • Pacquiao and his wife Jinkee were accused in 2012 of owing more than $37 million in unpaid taxes for 2008 and 2009
MANILA: Philippine boxing legend Manny Pacquiao on Friday won a years-long court battle to avoid paying tens of millions of dollars in extra taxes after an appeals court dismissed the case against him.
Pacquiao and his wife Jinkee had been accused by the Bureau of Internal Revenue in 2012 of owing more than $37 million (2.2 billion pesos) in unpaid taxes for 2008 and 2009.
The 43-year-old previously insisted he had paid the taxes in the United States, so did not need to do so in the Philippines because the two countries have an agreement allowing their citizens to avoid double taxation.
Then president Benigno Aquino was waging a bruising campaign against tax evasion as part of a general crackdown on corruption.
Pacquiao, a former world champion and politician, became one of the highest-profile targets of the tax office’s sweep.
But the Court of Tax Appeals found the tax office had relied on “unverified news articles” to make its assessment.
In a 49-page judgment, the court said the “assessment for deficiency income tax is void for violation of petitioners’ right to due process and for lack of sufficient factual basis.”
The ruling was handed down on September 29 but apparently only released on Friday.
Pacquiao, who reportedly ranked among the country’s top individual taxpayers in 2008 and 2009, welcomed the decision.
“Since the start of my career, I have made sure to pay all my taxes because this helps our government,” he said in a statement.
“I thank the Lord that the truth has come out.”
AFP could not reach the tax office for comment. It is not known if it plans to appeal the decision.
Pacquiao, who retired from boxing last year for a tilt at the Philippines presidency, is deeply admired for hauling himself out of poverty to become one of the world’s greatest and wealthiest fighters.
But he has also earned plenty of detractors with his support for former president Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly drug war, homophobic comments and lack of education.
Pacquiao has been preparing for a charity match against martial arts YouTuber DK Yoo scheduled for December 10 in Seoul.
He ended his 26-year boxing career with a points defeat to Cuban Yordenis Ugas in August 2021 and, as well as being a former senator, made a failed bid earlier this year to be president of his country.
Pacquiao’s net worth was almost $54 million in 2020, according to Senate data.

Soccer’s worst disasters: Same mistakes by police, fans die

Soccer’s worst disasters: Same mistakes by police, fans die
Updated 5 min 6 sec ago

Soccer’s worst disasters: Same mistakes by police, fans die

Soccer’s worst disasters: Same mistakes by police, fans die
  • Soccer’s three worst stadium tragedies occurred over a 60-year span but are so strikingly similar that its clear lessons haven’t been learned
  • Soccer was believed to have reached a turning point 33 years ago with the Hillsborough disaster

DUBAI: Police fire tear gas into a crowd of soccer fans, who panic and rush for the exits.
There are so many trying to escape and some of the gates are locked. The stadium becomes a death trap.
People are trampled in the desperation. Others suffocate, crushed by the weight of bodies around them.
They are the details of last weekend’s soccer game in Malang, Indonesia, where 131 people, some of them children, died in a crush after police fired tear gas at fans of home team Arema FC.
It’s also the story of the Estadio Nacional disaster in Lima, Peru, in 1964, when 328 died in a panic sparked by tear gas. It was the same in Accra, Ghana, in 2001, when 126 died.
Soccer’s three worst stadium tragedies occurred over a 60-year span but are so strikingly similar that its clear lessons haven’t been learned.
The world’s most popular game has historic problems of hooliganism, and Indonesia has its share of team rivalries that have led to violence. But Arema had the only fans in the stadium. Just them and the police.
“Not a single rival supporter. How can that match kill more than 100 people?” said a sobbing Gilang Widya Pramana, the president of Arema.
The blame has landed at the feet of the police, like it did in Lima, and Accra, and elsewhere.
Some Arema supporters rushed the field in anger at their team’s loss. Yet, major soccer tragedies have almost always been caused, experts say, by a heavy-handed overreaction by police and poor stadium safety. Firing tear gas in enclosed stadiums is universally condemned by security experts. Locking exits goes against all safety regulations.
“Actually, fans killing other fans is an incredibly rare thing,” said Prof. Geoff Pearson of the University of Manchester, an expert on the policing of soccer fans. “When we look at pretty much all the major (soccer) tragedies, I can’t think of an exception off the top of my head, all of these have been caused by unsafe stadiums or practices, or inappropriate policing.”
Indonesia, a country of 273 million, is due to host next year’s Under-20 World Cup. It is soccer’s “sleeping giant,” said James Montague, a journalist and author who traveled there to watch games with fans.
Montague found a passion for soccer that matches, even outstrips, the game’s leading countries. He said he also found “largely decrepit” stadiums, corruption and mismanagement everywhere and the kind of police that would “smash me in the face with a baton just because I’m standing there watching a football match.”
Soccer was believed to have reached a turning point 33 years ago with the Hillsborough disaster, where 97 Liverpool fans died as a result of a crush at a stadium in Sheffield, England, in 1989. Police were eventually found to have been to blame for letting fans into an already overcrowded section but it took 27 years before the police’s lies and coverups — blaming drunken fans for the deaths — were fully exposed.
Hillsborough led to sweeping reforms in English soccer, making stadiums safer and demanding police change.
That echoes in Indonesia this week. So do calls for justice. Indonesian authorities have laid charges against six people for the crush, three of them police officers.
But a lack of ultimate accountability — “the state closes ranks,” Montague said — has also been a repeat feature.
A BBC report on the 50th anniversary of the Lima disaster found that only one police officer had been sentenced for soccer’s deadliest stadium tragedy, getting 30 months in prison. More than 30 years after Hillsborough, one official has been convicted of a safety offense and fined. Police were acquitted after Africa’s worst sports disaster in Accra despite an inquiry that blamed them for the reckless firing of tear gas and rubber bullets.
Soccer authorities stand helpless. FIFA, the governing body of world soccer based in Switzerland, has recommendations that tear gas should never be used in stadiums. But soccer bodies can’t dictate the tactics used by a country’s security forces, even if it’s at a soccer game.
“It is all down to the organized culture of the police,” said Ronan Evain, executive director of Football Supporters Europe, a group that represents fans’ interests.
Soccer’s inability to interfere in domestic security matters is underlined by the situation in Egypt, where a 2012 stadium riot that killed 74 people came amid a decade of harsh crackdowns on fans by security forces. Dozens of fans have been killed in encounters with police at and away from games, and some fan groups were declared terrorist organizations because they were critical of the Egyptian government, which has been widely accused of human rights violations.
The African soccer body is even based in Cairo but has no authority to intervene.
It’s the police, Pearson said, who have to be “willing to admit their mistakes and learn from their mistakes.” But that kind of institutional change is grudging.
Hillsborough did bring effective reform for England, but it stands almost alone. Lessons were lost after Lima and Accra, and the same can happen again after Indonesia.
Only days after last weekend’s tragedy, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at soccer fans outside a stadium in Argentina and one person died in the chaos.
George Lawson worked at the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation when he raced to the unfolding tragedy at Ohene Djan Stadium in Accra 21 years ago. He remembered being stunned by the sight of dozens of bodies lying on the ground. He recalled his country coming to a standstill.
But while an inquiry demanded the stadium be totally upgraded, the only lasting change has been a bronze statue erected outside as a memorial, with the inscription: “I am my brother’s keeper.”
“When things happen like this, there’s a hullabaloo,” Lawson said. “And after some time people forget about it.”

Iran forward Azmoun doubtful for World Cup with calf injury

Iran forward Azmoun doubtful for World Cup with calf injury
Updated 07 October 2022

Iran forward Azmoun doubtful for World Cup with calf injury

Iran forward Azmoun doubtful for World Cup with calf injury
LEVERKUSEN: Iran forward Sardar Azmoun is a doubt for the World Cup after picking up an injury while warming up for Bayer Leverkusen.
The Bundesliga club said late Thursday that the 27-year-old Azmoun is expected to miss six to eight weeks after tearing a muscle in his right calf in the warm-up before Tuesday’s 2-0 loss at Porto in the Champions League.
Iran’s World Cup campaign begins against England on Nov. 21 in Doha, four days before playing Wales in Ar-Rayyan. The Iranians’ final game in Group B is against the United States on Nov. 29 in Doha.
Azmoun, who joined Leverkusen in January from Russian club Zenit St. Petersburg, has one goal in 17 Bundesliga appearances for the team. He has yet to score this season.
Azmoun has 41 goals in 65 appearances for Iran, including 10 goals in World Cup qualifying.

View from Newcastle: On-field success and promise of successful future a year on from era-defining takeover

View from Newcastle: On-field success and promise of successful future a year on from era-defining takeover
Updated 07 October 2022

View from Newcastle: On-field success and promise of successful future a year on from era-defining takeover

View from Newcastle: On-field success and promise of successful future a year on from era-defining takeover
  • Backed with top-quality talent in the transfer market, Eddie Howe has transformed the team’s performances after years of underachievement under Mike Ashley’s regime
  • Next on the agenda for the owners is a revamp of the club’s facilities and development of the region

NEWCASTLE: It was said to be the takeover to end all takeovers. No deal had even come close, not even the mega-rich buyouts of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain by Dubai and Qatar-based investors.

It was a deal that promised so much for a fanbase so willing, and a club so ripe for the picking — but has it delivered?

Here we take a look at what has actually changed in the 12 months on Tyneside since the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia takeover of Newcastle United, as seen through the eyes of fans — with hints of what’s to come through the words of PIF chief and Magpies’ chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan.

So what has changed?

So much in many ways, and yet so little in others — although the last bit must be caveated with the word pending.

This takeover, and the preamble to its being, can be divided into two very distinct categories — what the deal can bring for the football club, and what it can bring to the wider community in the northeast of England.In a football sense, Newcastle United is a club transformed.

#LISTEN: Black & White Podcast on all things Newcastle FC

Long gone are the days of flirting with relegation back to the Championship, England’s second tier, a place United stooped to twice during previous owner Mike Ashley’s reign. Now, a fresh optimism that European football can return to St. James’ Park, something seen just once in more than a decade and a half.

And how has that been achieved — well, just by trying to run Newcastle like a proper, functioning Premier League football club, not the dysfunctional mess Sports Direct tycoon Ashley presided over.

Jobs and roles that were previously filled by just one person, now have teams of operatives. Key positions such as chief executive and director of football have been stocked with well-qualified personnel.

There is a real sense that from the boardroom to the dugout and on to the pitch, every person at the club is pulling in the same direction, has the same end goal — and the goal is, of course, success and silverware on Tyneside.

Manager Steve Bruce was replaced with a self-confessed workaholic and “football geek” Eddie Howe.

His fresh, modern approach to the game could not be more at odds with his ex-Manchester United predecessor’s old pals, 1990s football playbook. And it was something the players, many of those starring now were already here before the takeover, have commented on.

There is a clear style of play, an identity about Howe’s Newcastle — when has that ever been said about Newcastle in recent years?

Howe is squeezing the best out of some cast aside by Bruce, such as Fabian Schar and others, while complementing them with flashes of new-found brilliance from Bruno Guimaraes et al.

Signing the likes of Bruno has been one of the biggest changes, too. The summer of 2021 was one of pain and frustration as United failed to capitalize on a decent end to the 2020-21 campaign under Bruce, by signing just one player permanently, Joe Willock. And he was a player who was already at the club on loan.

Since that window, about £200 million has been splashed out on various rising stars from across the Continent. United broke their transfer record to sign Alexander Isak, who was very much on Man City’s radar, I’m told, had any hiccups occurred in the deal to sign Erling Haaland last summer.

The small but important details have not been overlooked either. The need to improve the training ground, so often a source of embarrassment, even for United managers, has already been addressed, with much more to be completed during the winter break for Qatar World Cup, during which United are expected to spend some time in Saudi. A new facility, on the boundaries between leafy Gosforth and Brutalist 1960s new town Killingworth, is in the pipeline.

Club legend Alan Shearer has been honored, not once but twice. That was unthinkable under Ashley, who had sacked the former England captain. His statue moved back on to club land and the bar formerly of his name, returned to its former glory, one befitting of a player who netted 206 goals for the football club.

Care and attention after years of neglect has not gone unnoticed by the receptive Geordie public, who now fill out the ground again, only years after Ashley was forced to give away 10,000 free season tickets in order to keep attendances high.

And that brings me on to the second part of this — what has the deal done for the region.

Well, beyond training ground hints, the answer, at this stage, is very little.

That, however, is definitely set to change. Investment is afoot, it’s understood, with the owners’ plans likely to see cash and potentially jobs flood to the region.

For now, though, that side of the deal is yet to really come to fruition, hence the idea of pending.

The fans’ view “Imagine what this will look like in two years’ time?”

Newcastle has always been famous the world over for the undying, unwavering love of its fans. And 12 months to the day since tens of thousands of them flocked to St. James’ Park, their cathedral on the hill, to mark the passing of the Ashley regime and the rebirth of the sleeping giant on the Tyne, they remain at the very heart of the club’s success moving forward.

“The last year has demonstrated what every Newcastle United fan knew all along. We knew that with the right owners the football club and the city would take off,” said Alex Hurst, of NUFC fanzine True Faith.

“We knew that the club would once again become integral in the lives of millions of people.

“After years of the club being talked down and mocked, the rest of the league and wider football media has had to come to terms with their beloved six becoming seven. Newcastle United have dominated two transfer windows and beaten much of the Premier League since the takeover, despite years of neglect and an almost non existent infrastructure away from the pitch. Imagine what all of this will look like in two years’ time?

“This was supposed to be the hardest part for owners, fans and footballers. Everything has gone to plan so far. Everything.  This twelve months has been special but I think everyone in football is aware, they’ve seen nothing yet.”

As his words detail, Hurst is unequivocal in his view that this deal has had an inherently positive impact on what it means to be associated with Newcastle United.

That’s a view echoed by YouTuber and NUFC Matters podcast host, Steve Wraith.

“When I stood at Molineux in October 2021 in the rain watching another abject display from Steve Bruce’s beleaguered Newcastle team, never could I have imagined that we would be in the position that we now find ourselves in,” he said.

“The takeover of our club by PIF and partners was something our supporters had craved throughout 14 years of misery under Mike Ashley’s ownership.

“In the last 12 months we have retained our premier league status with a hungry new manager in Eddie Howe and made shrewd signings such as Kieran Trippier, Dan Burn, Bruno Guimaraes and a club record signing in Alexander Isak.

“More importantly the new owners have given the supporters hope and with that hope have reunited the fanbase.

“A club disunited for over a decade can once again proudly call itself Newcastle United.”

The future — what next for Newcastle United?

We will leave this to the man who basically holds the keys to the kingdom, the man co-owner Mehrdad Ghodoussi called “boss” on Twitter on Thursday evening, Al-Rumayyan. Often seen as a bright, smiley face in the directors box at SJP and sometimes with a black and white flag in his hand, Al-Rumayyan and PIF, have been welcomed into the club by the people of the region with open arms.

After 15 years of a financial tyrant, resistance was never expected to be encountered — one of the reasons it was such an investable project.

So many predicted the club would be run like PSG or City. So far, it hasn’t. This isn’t about Galactico signings, more medium to long-term deals, improvement from the grassroots up. Every deal must have value for money. Too many sporting ‘projects’ have poured cash down the drain, not under Al-Rumayyan and PIF’s watch.

So why Newcastle and why the Premier League?

“So football is part of the 13 sectors that PIF are interested in. Football is certainly one of the most important sports, whether here or globally, it’s the number one sport,” said Al-Rumayyan.

“Why the EPL? Why the English League? Because it’s currently the greatest league in the world. It has no challengers.

“There are 20 teams, three that will suffer relegation, and three that will be promoted from the second tier. What distinguishes the English league is that any of the 20 teams could beat even the strongest team. The level of competition is extremely high.”

Bang for the buck was, and always is, the main consideration for PIF when investing in any project. NUFC is no different.

Al-Rumayyan explains: “When we looked at it, we considered the financial aspect.

“By the way, it wasn’t the first ‘offer’ that came our way from a club. We looked at clubs in Italy, in France, in Britain. So for example, in Britain, a club approached us to own 30 percent without having any say in its running.”

That is understood to be Manchester United.

He continues: “For £700 million sterling. But we bought Newcastle, 100 percent ownership was offered to us. But the party that brought us the opportunity, Amanda Staveley and her husband, said ‘we like it so much, we’d like to be with you’. Then the Reuben family, who are one of the biggest property developers, said ‘we’d like to come with you’. They were one of the leading developers in Newcastle, and I said excellent, let them join. So now they have skin in the game.

“We bought the club for a total of £350 million sterling compared to the 70 million for only 30 percent, or the 3.5 billion for Chelsea.

“So my potential is to go from 350 million to at least 3.5 billion, that’s 10 times the money. If I’d bought Chelsea, how high could the value go? 4 billion? 5 billion? So it’s pure investment, that’s the first thing.

“Number two, Newcastle is one of few one-club cities. Most cities have several clubs. The whole of Newcastle is behind you, 950,000 people, and more than 1 million in the wider region, are all fans. We have about 52,000 seats at the stadium, all sold out.”

And is there potential for wider investment in the northeast of England?

“When you look at it from every angle, there is potential. The chief strategists for international investments are looking at the property and infrastructure developments that we will be involved in in that area,” said Al-Rumayyan.

“So the potential in terms of investment is huge, and at the same time it gives us a platform going forward for sports investment.”

What of the club’s on-field ambitions? Al-Rumayyan addressed that very subject in a club statement released to fans on the eve of the one-year deal anniversary.

And what’s certain is, PIF is aiming BIG. They’re not here to take part, they’re here to take over.

“We told you that we wanted to build, over time, a consistently successful team. And we told you that we were focused on long-term success,” he stated.

“There is still a long way to go, but each season is a building block toward our objective – to challenge for trophies both domestically and in Europe. The Club we are building is made up of people who understand our long-term vision, and who understand the patience and persistence that it will take to achieve those goals.”

While that rhetoric will get the juices flowing for Newcastle fans, it feels like only the opening stanza of a wonderful, PIF-orchestrated symphony on Tyneside.

Ask any United fan and they’d tell you they’d be happy with one trophy in their lifetime, bearing in mind the club has not won a major domestic honor since 1955. Just one? That’s the bare minimum for those at the top of the football club — and Newcastle and its fans are all for it.

The view from Saudi: a year of momentous change at Newcastle United

The view from Saudi: a year of momentous change at Newcastle United
Updated 07 October 2022

The view from Saudi: a year of momentous change at Newcastle United

The view from Saudi: a year of momentous change at Newcastle United
  • On and off the pitch, standards and expectations have been raised

On the eve of the first anniversary of the Newcastle United takeover, club Chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan delivered a special open letter to the club’s fans.

“The first game after the takeover will live long in my memory,” he said recalling the home game against Tottenham on Oct. 17, 2021 and the “feeling of pride at holding the black and white scarf entering the stadium.”

So much has happened since that day, and I was lucky to experience many of those moments both in Newcastle and at home in Saudi Arabia.

Here are my main takes from a memorable year.

Hope returns

When Keith Patterson, a popular Newcastle fan who helped push the takeover, was asked about the biggest change at the club after the Saudi-backed purchase, he replied simply: “Hope.”

That there is the hope of winning a trophy — something that could not be envisioned a year ago — is a sign of just how ambitious Newcastle United, both the club and its fans, have become.

It might not come this season, but now there is real hope that a first trophy since the 1969 Fairs Cup is on the way.

#LISTEN: Black & White Podcast on all things Newcastle FC

Pre-season sets tone for new campaign

Winning the Premier League is not the target for Newcastle right now, and supporters know that a far more realistic target is winning a domestic cup at Wembley or reaching Europe next season.

The club’s intentions were clear from the pre-season camps in Austria and Portugal, which saw impressive displays against Benfica and Atlanta in particular.

With an improved, settled squad in place, the feel-good factor of the summer has carried over into the season.

Intelligent recruitment

The January transfer window set a high bar for Newcastle’s recruitment, with Kieran Trippier, Dan Burn, Bruno Guimaraes and Chris Wood joining on a full-time basis.

And things have only improved since then, with the summer window seeing the likes of Nick Pope, Sven Botman and Alexander Isak joining Eddie Howe’s squad.

During the summer, fans were impatient for big-name signings, but the management’s vision was different, with Howe prioritizing individuals with the right personality for his team before anything else.

Off the pitch, recruitment has also been meticulous, the club biding their time to get the right people in place. From signing Howe himself, to adding Sporting Director Dan Ashworth, CEO Darren Eales and others, Newcastle now has a management team that is the envy of most clubs.

A promising start to the Premier League season

The start to the 2022-23 season could not be more different from that of last season, when Newcastle failed to win any of their first 14 fixtures.

This time around, Newcastle kicked off with a 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest and after eight matches find themselves seventh in the league and eyeing Europe.

The 11 points have come from two wins, five draws and only one narrow loss to Liverpool. Some of those draws could have been wins as well, and while a lot of hard work still awaits Howe and his squad in the coming months, no one is complaining about this positive start.

Upcoming challenges off the pitch

Newcastle’s to-do list remains a long one, and one of the challenges — a welcome one — is how to meet the demands of fans.

St. James’ over-52,000 capacity could be sold several times over for every match. There has even been talk of a brand-new stadium with an 80,000 capacity.

In theory, that may solve a problem, but in reality, it will initiate a bigger one. St. James remains the heart of the city, and its location is culturally and financially precious.

Far more likely is redeveloping this historic home.

Mehrdad Ghodoussi, part-owner of Newcastle United, has made it clear that the club is in talks with the city council to try and expand St. James’ capacity.

Leaving the stadium, he said, would be “like tearing your soul out.”

He added: “There are a lot of things that need to happen first. If we can get it to 60,000 or 65,000, it will be amazing, and we’ll look at every possibility.”