Howe backs Pope to recover from England nightmare

Howe backs Pope to recover from England nightmare
England’s goalkeeper Nick Pope concedes a goal from Germany’s midfielder Kai Havertz during a UEFA Nations League group A3 football match in Wembley on Sept. 26, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 01 October 2022

Howe backs Pope to recover from England nightmare

Howe backs Pope to recover from England nightmare
  • Newcastle goalkeeper’s late error gifted Germany an equalizer in Monday’s 3-3 draw

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe is backing Nick Pope to put his England nightmare behind him at Newcastle United, while insisting he has no short-term interest in replacing Gareth Southgate.

The Magpies head coach Howe has been installed as the favorite to replace Southgate as international boss in light of England going winless in their last six games ahead of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in November.

The latest disappointment in that unwanted run was a 3-3 home draw with Germany, in which Magpies’ No. 1 Pope made a costly late error to ensure the visitors walked away with a valuable UEFA Nations League point.

And while Howe knows the summer signing will be back to his best for Newcastle, he also backs Southgate to bounce back.

“I have spoken with Nick. He’s in a good place,” said Howe, whose side take on Fulham at Craven Cottage today.

“He is aware of how special those games are for him and his career. Where he has come from, to experience those moments is brilliant. He has earned the right to get to the position he is at. I was very proud of him representing his country on behalf of England.

“It’s a very difficult position to play in. I remember playing in goal a few times as a 10-year-old and I made a couple of mistakes and that was me out — I didn’t want to do it anymore. You need to love goalkeeping and then you need to be able to deal with mistakes. It’s part of the job when you’re in that position.

“Nick is a very calm, level-headed guy — he’s incredibly focused. I’ve got no problem with him returning. I know he’ll carry on where he left off for us. It’s probably a shield that you build up through many years of playing in goal.”

While many pundits are tipping England to turn to Howe if things fail to go to plan for the national team in the Middle East this winter, the Newcastle head coach only has eyes for progress on Tyneside.

“Gareth has done an incredible job and I mean that from the bottom of my heart,” said Howe.

“I have been lucky enough to go in and see him work and I have a lot of time for him and Steve Holland,” said Howe. “They have been amazing for England. You have to remember where England was before he took over and what he has done for the country.

“I never say never, never. But in the short term it is not on my radar at all. It is all Newcastle and trying to make this team better.

“I have always said I love the day-to-day coaching, love being with the players on the training ground — in international football you get that taken away for long periods. At this moment in my life that is not something I want to do.”

Meanwhile, Howe understands that the key to Newcastle’s success this season is keeping his key players fit.

And after an international break of injury scares, Howe is unexpectedly set to welcome back Callum Wilson, Elliot Anderson, Bruno Guimaraes and possibly Allan Saint-Maximin and Chris Wood to his first-team setup.

“I’m not sure there’s a magic formula, really,” said Howe on keeping players like last season’s top-scorer Wilson fit.

“Of course, with all our players, our main aim is to get as many people fit and available for as many games as we can.

“Callum is an important player so resting him and managing his minutes is not always the best thing for a player. Sometimes players need rhythm and they need to get used to playing 90 minutes consecutively to build their resilience.

“It’s a really delicate balance and sometimes it’s impossible to know what the correct answer is. Sometimes you just play the game, don’t think too much and then back the players’ resilience. Callum played a lot of games for me during busy schedules and did very well so there’s no special plans at the moment.”


Leading coaches hold tennis try-outs for Saudi women

Leading coaches hold tennis try-outs for Saudi women
Updated 8 sec ago

Leading coaches hold tennis try-outs for Saudi women

Leading coaches hold tennis try-outs for Saudi women
  • Judy Murray, Barbara Schett-Eagle, Mats Wilander and Thomas Johansson hold tennis try-out for women on sidelines of Diriyah Tennis Cup
  • Judy Murray: ‘To be able to come here against the backdrop of the Diriyah Tennis Cup, which is a mens’ events, and have a whole womens’ program going on around it, is very, very important’

Female students from Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University (PNU) Riyadh participated in tennis coaching sessions with leading international coaches and former players as part of the Diriyah Tennis Cup program.

The students were coached by Judy Murray, mother of leading players Jamie and Andy Murray, former World Number 1 Mats Wilander from Sweden, his compatriot Thomas Johansson and Austrian Barbara Schett-Eagle.

Some of the women students held a racquet in their hands for the first time and were introduced to the sport by the tennis legends.

“At the sessions we had a real mix of complete beginners who want to learn the game, some people who have been playing for years and wish to improve and also teachers and coaches,” said Judy Murray.

“I have worked in tennis for over 30 years and the last twelve years I have really focused on encouraging women and girls. Not just to play tennis but to get involved in delivering tennis. We don’t have enough female coaches in tennis worldwide, so actually to be able to come here against the backdrop of the Diriyah Tennis Cup, which is a mens’ events, and have a whole womens’ program going on in the community around it, is very, very important.”

“As a — hopefully — role model and female coach I like to go out and share all the content I have created over many years. I am so passionate about getting more women and girls involved, so this is a lovely opportunity for me to come to Riyadh to do that.”

Former leading player Mats Wilander said: “People are very much into sport here. To play tennis with the female students was wonderful. Judy Murray has a wonderful program. It’s important, to bring tennis to the women of Saudi Arabia, women in general and people in general. Everybody should have a chance to experience and try out the sport.”

Former Austrian player Barbara Schett-Eagle added: “I had an unbelievable day playing tennis with the female students, some playing for the first time. I love tennis. It’s my love and my passion. At the end, they were all able to hit a tennis ball. Some never held a racket before. It was great, there were lots of smiles.”

The President of the Saudi Tennis Federation Arij Almutabagani said that she saw a bright future for tennis in the kingdom in the coming years.

“There is a strong possibility of finding some young talent. We are really starting at the grassroots, at the beginning, but we have to start somewhere. I think Judy Murray is a great inspiration and I think this program with her is a good start and I hope we can work with her in the future,” said Almutabagani.


Shane Lowry to compete in Dubai Desert Classic

Shane Lowry to compete in Dubai Desert Classic
Updated 07 December 2022

Shane Lowry to compete in Dubai Desert Classic

Shane Lowry to compete in Dubai Desert Classic
  • Lowry joins the top-ranked player in the world Rory McIlroy and DP World Tour stars Tommy Fleetwood, Ryan Fox and Tyrrell Hatton in January’s Rolex Series event
  • Irishman Lowry’s career highlight so far came when he lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush, winning by an impressive six strokes

Shane Lowry, the 2019 Open Champion, has announced that he will compete in the Dubai Desert Classic.

Lowry joins the top-ranked player in the world Rory McIlroy and DP World Tour stars Tommy Fleetwood, Ryan Fox and Tyrrell Hatton in January’s Rolex Series event.

Irishman Lowry’s career highlight so far came when he lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush, winning by an impressive six strokes. A four-time winner on the DP World Tour, and twice on the PGA TOUR, Lowry secured his second Rolex Series title at the BMW PGA Championship in September, in a season that also included a top three finish at The Masters.

On the prospect of teeing off at Emirates Golf Club from 26th to 29th January — as he aims to add more silverware in the UAE following his 2019 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship title — Lowry said: “I always enjoy going to Dubai and I am delighted to be returning to Emirates Golf Club for the Dubai Desert Classic in January.

“I’ve had success in the UAE in the past, and it would be great to add my name to the impressive list of players who have lifted this trophy.”

Fleetwood ended the 2022 season in style, securing his sixth DP World Tour title when he successfully defended his Nedbank Golf Challenge title in November. The former European Number One has also tasted success in the UAE with two wins in Abu Dhabi, and was runner-up to Ryder Cup team-mate and fellow fan favorite Lowry at the 2019 Open. It is his joint best Major outing to date, having also finished second at the US Open the previous year.

New Zealand’s Fox has had a stunning 2022, finishing second behind McIlroy in the season-long DP World Tour Rankings after winning the Ras Al Khaimah Classic in February and the prestigious Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in October. With a further eight top tens throughout the season, including a narrow playoff loss at the Dutch Open, the Kiwi, will be looking to take that impressive form into 2023 and his appearance in Dubai.

Englishman Hatton is another tournament addition with considerable pedigree, who has experienced recent success in the region following his 2021 triumph in Abu Dhabi. The two-time Ryder Cup star has six DP World Tour victories to his name, including four Rolex Series titles. After a runner-up finish at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, he will be aiming to carry on that form when he returns to Dubai in January.

The four will join two-time winner of the Dubai Desert Classic, four-time Major winner and current World Number 1 McIlroy, who has already confirmed his participation.

Simon Corkill, Executive Tournament Director of Dubai Desert Classic, said: “The latest player announcement shows the strength of the Dubai Desert Classic and its ability to attract the very best players in the world. Over the years we have been proud to assemble stellar line-ups for fans to enjoy some scintillating golfing action — and the 2023 edition will be no exception.”

“To add the 2019 Open Champion Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton to the field guarantees that we have a world class field. Ryan Fox will come to us on the back of a brilliant 2022, his best career year to date and will be another excellent addition to our line-up,” added Corkill.


Japan target fifth Asian title after World Cup heartbreak

Japan target fifth Asian title after World Cup heartbreak
Updated 07 December 2022

Japan target fifth Asian title after World Cup heartbreak

Japan target fifth Asian title after World Cup heartbreak
  • The Blue Samurai were eliminated from the World Cup on penalties by Croatia
  • The defeat did not stop hundreds of fans from travelling to an airport near Tokyo to welcome the players and coach Hajime Moriyasu

NARITA, Japan: Japan will put their World Cup heartbreak behind them and focus on becoming Asian champions for a fifth time, captain Maya Yoshida said after the team returned home on Wednesday.
The Blue Samurai were eliminated from the World Cup on penalties by Croatia in the last 16 on Monday, denying them a first-ever place in the quarter-finals.
But the defeat did not stop hundreds of fans from traveling to an airport near Tokyo to welcome the players and coach Hajjime Moriyasu back from Qatar.
“We won’t stop here,” Yoshida said at a news conference after arriving.
“We will aim to become the best in Asia,” he added.
“Our fight will continue. As long as we keep playing football, we must keep fighting.”
The Asian Cup will also be held in Qatar after original host China dropped out due to its strict anti-Covid policies.
The tournament was set to be held in June and July 2023 but is now likely to be postponed until early 2024 to avoid Qatar’s fierce summer heat.
Japan won the most recent of their four Asian Cup titles the last time Qatar hosted the tournament, in 2011.
The Blue Samurai could not find a way past Croatia in the last 16 of the World Cup, but they stunned former champions Germany and Spain to top their first-round group.
“We couldn’t reach new heights but my players showed us a new era, and this is just the beginning,” said Moriyasu.
Among the crowd of fans waiting to welcome the team home at the airport was 55-year-old Takamichi Masui.
He said the wins over Germany and Spain were proof that “Japan has become a soccer powerhouse.”
Another fan, 37-year-old Takahiro Ichikawa, said that like captain Yoshida, he is only looking ahead.
“For now, I hope the national team will focus on pulling off a solid performance in the Asian Cup in Qatar,” he said.


Eddie Howe and Newcastle United chiefs hold transfer summit in Riyadh

Eddie Howe and Newcastle United chiefs hold transfer summit in Riyadh
Updated 07 December 2022

Eddie Howe and Newcastle United chiefs hold transfer summit in Riyadh

Eddie Howe and Newcastle United chiefs hold transfer summit in Riyadh
  • Club likely to strengthen the squad in the January window
  • The Magpies are in the Saudi capital for a training camp that includes a friendly against Al-Hilal

RIYADH: Towering palms, the tinkling of ivories, clinking of coffee cups and a warm winter sun hue about the Saudi skies, is not your usual location for a Newcastle United transfer summit.

It’s a far cry from the inner bowels of St James’ Park, where head coach Eddie Howe, along with the club’s minority owners, thrashed out a summer raid for one of the hottest prospects in the game, Sweden international Alexander Isak. Not since the Vikings have the European elites been so unsettled by a force from the north.

But Howe, meeting with club chiefs and the money men at the Public Investment Fund, spent his Tuesday evening in the Kingdom talking transfers with Al-Olaya the backdrop, the Four Seasons an opulent frame.

Beyond the ostentatious surrounds lies a steely determination, one funded in the Gulf, but driven with North East grit. A goal not publicly admitted, but privately discussed. A want to take Newcastle United into the promised land, the UEFA Champions League, a feat the club has not achieved on Tyneside in two decades.

Lying third in the Premier League, which is beyond even the wildest of Newcastle fans’ expectations, the prospect is not out of the realms of possibility.

But will that be boosted by another Magpies’ January transfer window raiding party? Howe says talks have started.

“I have had half an eye on January and the squad and how it looks,” he said, confirming the transfer talks with Newcastle chiefs.

“We need to be adaptable and prepared for what is always a difficult window. But if there is something we can do to improve the team, I, naturally as the manager, would like to look at that.”

Expectation may be that Newcastle will be bold in their moves with the likes of England international James Maddison, however such a switch has been played down by those in the know.

More likely is movements for players more in the Isak or Sven Botman mold, ready to attack the Premier League, but not at an English topflight premium. And key to this January regeneration will be the right players, at the right price and for the right reasons, if at all.

“Me, sitting here now, I am not expecting too much business, whether incoming or outgoing, but it is football and it is January so it’s unpredictable,” Howe told Arab News.

“We can’t predict what is going to happen with our own squad at times, in terms of fitness and availability, so we do need to be ready to act if we need to. The need for that will be minimized by keeping a fit and healthy squad of players.

“We look like, on paper, we have a very strong squad when everyone is fit. Everyone is not fit currently, and that has a bearing on what you look to do in January.

“Probably the squad, in my eyes, looks different to what it did in the summer because of how well players have done — and from my perspective, I can’t ignore that.”

On the level of those who may arrive, Botman and Isak have set the blueprint but financial fair play rules, until United’s commercial revenues are boosted significantly, will always be the elephant in the ever-expanding room.

Howe continued: “In my position you are keen to sign the best players you can — but those players come at a premium, as you know. Botman wasn’t cheap, Alex wasn’t cheap. Those are players who can influence the starting 11. Do we have the finances for that? I do not know. That might impact our options on that one.

“As a manager I am always looking to improve the team. I will never sit here and be content — I don’t think that is the right way to manage. My way to take the team to new heights is to improve through the training of the players we have. If we can’t get to a certain level then we need to find that in the transfer market. And, of course, you have to work within the guidelines of the club.”

Meanwhile, United’s trip, which started on Sunday and ends on Saturday, is being officially supported by, it’s been announced, Saudi telecommunications giant stc.

In a further boost to club revenues, stc have been named as the official digital partner of the tour and the news follows hot on the heels of Saudi Airlines’ sponsorship of the tour to the Middle East.

A club statement confirmed: “The partnership will provide stc with a digital presence at the Al-Hilal versus Newcastle United fixture, as well as an ongoing presence at St. James’ Park throughout the 2022/23 Premier League campaign, and supporters will have exclusive opportunities to win memorabilia and tickets.”

The NUFC’s chief commercial officer, Peter Silverstone, said: “Our ambition is to grow our supporter base in Saudi Arabia, a country whose young population includes a large, passionate and highly engaged football community.

“We are delighted to welcome stc to our growing family of partners and have them on board as our second strategic partner for the club’s visit to Saudi Arabia this December.

“stc digitally connects millions of individuals and businesses throughout the Middle East and their market knowledge, expertise and experience in sport partnerships will complement our drive to reach and engage with more people across one of our key markets. We look forward to working closely with stc.”


‘No small teams anymore’, FIFA chief hails best group stage

‘No small teams anymore’, FIFA chief hails best group stage
FIFA President Gianni Infantino gives thumbs-up during Qatar 2022 World Cup Group G match between Brazil and Switzerland. AFP
Updated 07 December 2022

‘No small teams anymore’, FIFA chief hails best group stage

‘No small teams anymore’, FIFA chief hails best group stage
  • “Fantastic atmosphere, great goals, incredible excitement, surprises, small teams beating big teams,” he said in comments released by FIFA on Wednesday

DOHA: FIFA President Gianni Infantino has hailed the group stage of the Qatar World Cup as the “best ever” and said the number of upsets and geographic breadth of the teams progressing indicated that football was becoming ever more global.
Former champions Argentina, Spain, Germany and Brazil all suffered shock group-stage losses and Africa, Asia and North America were represented in the last 16 along with traditional powerhouses South America and Europe.
Infantino said the matches — “played in beautiful stadiums” — had already attracted a TV audience in excess of two billion viewers.
“Fantastic atmosphere, great goals, incredible excitement, surprises, small teams beating big teams,” he said in comments released by FIFA on Wednesday.
“Well, there are no more small teams and no more big teams. The level is very, very equal.
“For the first time as well, national teams from all continents going to the knock-out phase, for the first time in history. This shows that football is really becoming truly global.”
Infantino has pushed through the expansion of the World Cup from 32 teams to 48 for the next edition, which will be held across 16 cities in the United States, Canada and Mexico in 2026.
Infantino on Wednesday said he had been delighted with the number of fans crowding into the stadiums and fanzones in the country and thought the final TV viewership figures would exceed five billion.
“At the end [of the day], we simply want to give some joy and some smiles to people all over the world,” he added.
“That’s what football is about, that’s what the World Cup is about, and that’s what should also happen from now until the end.
“We have already seen some great action on the field, which, (ultimately), is the most important part of what you do.”