OLIVER HOLT: Newcastle players should watch their steps on grim Saudi Arabia tour

OLIVER HOLT: Newcastle players should watch their steps on a bleak tour of Saudi Arabia… pranking like in Marbella 20 years ago won’t sit well with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

  • Newcastle United squad travel to Saudi Arabia for mid-season break
  • On a similar trip 20 years ago, Craig Bellamy and Kieron Dyer were sent home
  • The pair and two players pranked President Freddy Shepherd
  • A repetition with this time is likely to have much more serious consequences











It’s been just over 20 years since Newcastle United’s mid-season training break at Marbella ended with Craig Bellamy, Kieron Dyer and two other players sent home in disgrace. A drink was taken, pranks were played on chairman Freddy Shepherd, an official club function was missed and the punishment was swift and uncompromising.

Not as fast and uncompromising as it will be if the successors of Bellamy, Dyer and the others try any of the same tricks during their proposed break in Saudi Arabia later this month, where they will be invited to perform for their new payers, the Saudi Public Investment Fund.

Alcohol will not be available, which could be a good thing because playing a trick on the club’s new de facto owner, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the head of the PIF, would be unwise. The last guy who upset him was transported from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in garbage bags. It would be an unfortunate way to wear down the squad ahead of the relegation battle that awaits us.

Newcastle United will visit the home of their new Saudi owners later this month

Owners will meet the team, including new signings Chris Wood and Kieran Tripper

Owners will meet the team, including new signings Chris Wood and Kieran Tripper

The club’s base in the country during their break is not yet known, but if they are staying near Riyadh, the capital, any respectable tourist visit will take them to the place known colloquially as Chop Chop Square, the favored site of public executions, which were increased again in the first half of last year.

When I was in Riyadh in December 2019 for Anthony Joshua’s world heavyweight title rematch with Andy Ruiz Jnr, some of my colleagues went to Chop Chop Square on Friday afternoon, which is usually the time scheduled for executions, but this time the square was deserted. With media visits to town and a public image to wash away, it may not have been deemed politic to maintain the usual practice.

The trip to Saudi Arabia will make them feel like this is the moment they fully own Newcastle. Perhaps it will give the regime’s first signings Eddie Howe, Kieran Trippier and Chris Wood pause to reflect when they see that Sir Andy Murray has turned down eye-watering sums to hold exhibition events in Saudi Arabia in because of his concerns about the diet. – file criticized on the rights of homosexuals and the rights of women.

Meanwhile, Andy Murray has turned down large sums to hold exhibition events in Saudi Arabia

Meanwhile, Andy Murray has turned down large sums to hold exhibition events in Saudi Arabia

The club’s winter break will be another step in trying to massage that image and the Saudis will be desperate for Newcastle to start climbing the table now that they’ve started throwing their millions of oil into squad building and the recruitment of a first class manager. at Howe.

Their recent £25m purchase of Wood from relegation rivals Burnley was a prime example of the power Saudi investment has bought Newcastle, improving their chances and hampering Burnley at the same time.

It is because of money and new signings that Newcastle are favored to beat the drop. If that happens, sportwashing will begin in earnest and, tapping into the gratitude of long-suffering home fans, the Saudis will begin to see a return on their investment. Perhaps then the players will be allowed to resume their winter vacation in Marbella.

About Leni Loberns

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