RIYADH: Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the chairman of Newcastle United, delivered a rallying cry to the Champions League-chasing players and coaching staff this week during their mid-season trip to Saudi Arabia.
The 28-man Magpies squad were guests of honor at his Riyadh residence on Monday evening. Head coach Eddie Howe said that Al-Rumayyan, who is also governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, took the opportunity to discuss the team’s current form and plans for future developments at the club.
“It was a really, really special moment for the chairman to welcome us to his home,” said Howe, whose side sit third in the Premier League after 15 top-flight games. “It wasn’t underestimated by us; it was a really nice gesture. It’s not every day that you have that invitation, so we were humbled to accept it.
“He was really, really good with us, communicated his thoughts and visions on the future. I really enjoyed spending time with him and his family. He was very welcoming and open and I’m sure the players feel the same way. He was very good with them. He interacts and talks with them in a really good way.”
Howe, who in November 2021 was the first major appointment of the Saudi era at the club, has transformed United from a team that was battling relegation at the start of this year to one that is now fighting it out at the top with the Premier League’s traditional “big six.”
A lot of what he has built and achieved has come as a result of hard work and building a strong team spirit, and this was something that Al-Rumayyan reiterated to the squad, Howe said.
“I think he’s very much for the team,” the coach added. “He wants to acknowledge that and bring everyone together. He speaks really well and honestly, and I’m sure the players appreciated his words.
“It was, ‘Well done but we want more, we’re very ambitious.’ I think that’s what the players want to hear. He just (wants us) to continue to work as hard as (we) are and stick together as a team. He’s been really pleased watching the team, how it’s fought for everything.
“They were team messages but very effective messages. I think it was an acknowledgment from him to the staff as well. I think it was just nice for everyone to share that moment.”
When asked what the chairman’s home was like, Howe was diplomatically coy.
“Quite small, actually,” he said in jest. “It was an amazing place but he’s earned his success through hard work and it was a real privilege to be there.”
One thing on the minds of many monitoring developments at Newcastle is what lies ahead in the January transfer window. This was not a topic of conversation with Al-Rumayyan, Howe said.
“I didn’t think it was the right time, with his wife and children there,” he joked.
But he added that he has since met co-owners Jamie Reuben, Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi to discuss budgets.
The training camp in Saudi Arabia is Newcastle’s second trip to the Kingdom this year. They will take on Saudi Pro League champions Al-Hilal in a friendly at Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium at 8pm on Thursday.