Newcastle United in Saudi Arabia: Eddie Howe's transfer message, Alexander Isak injury update

Newcastle United have had a busy few days in Saudi Arabia – on and off the pitch.

Eddie Howe and his players have been preparing for tomorrow night’s friendly against Al Hilal at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium in Riyadh.

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The squad is being put through what Howe has described as a “mini” pre-season campaign ahead of the Premier League’s restart later this month.

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However, the winter training hasn’t just been about the work being done on the pitch, as a number of commercial partnerships have been announced. Players and officials, along with co-owners Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi, have also been out and about in the city at a series of club events.

What have you made of the trip so far?

The trip, from the club’s points of view, has gone very well so far. On the playing side, Howe and his staff have been able to get away from the cold snap on Tyneside and train in good weather. The facilities in Riyadh are good, and so too is the team hotel. The team, which has been worked intensively on the training pitch ahead of the Al Hilal game, has been able to bond away from the training pitch too, so that’s good for squad unity ahead of a demanding few weeks.

Is there any early team news ahead of the Al Hilal game?

Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Yes, Alexander Isak won’t be involved, and Howe doesn’t expect him to be ready for next weekend’s home friendly against Rayo Vallecano either. Isak didn’t train with the group yesterday at Al Hilal’s training base, but he hasn’t suffered a setback, according to Howe. It’s hoped that Isak, sidelined since September with a thigh injury, will be ready to make a comeback once the domestic calendar restarts.

Has Eddie Howe spoken about transfers?

The January transfer window is on the horizon, and Howe planned to speak with sporting director Dan Ashworth and other senior figures while in Riyadh. Plans are being formulated ahead of the window, but the club, working within financial fair play guidelines, doesn’t have a blank cheque after spending more than £200million over the past two windows. Howe reiterated this, but he also stressed his desire to see the squad further strengthened – if possible.

What else has been happening on the trip?

Newcastle United in Saudi Arabia.Newcastle United in Saudi Arabia.
Newcastle United in Saudi Arabia.
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Meetings, and lots of them. A lot of the club’s commercial staff, led by chief commercial officer Peter Silverstone, also travelled to Riyadh along with the playing squad hierarchy, and they’ve been very busy meeting potential sponsors and partners in the country. We’ve seen a couple of off-field ventures announced during the trip, and there will be more deals unveiled over the coming weeks and months. Staveley and chief executive officer Darren Eales also spoke at a fan event today.

Has United chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan met the squad?

Yes, Al-Rumayyan, governor of the Public Investment Fund, United’s majority owners, invited the club’s travelling party of around 100 to his house on Monday night. Al-Rumayyan – who has attended a number of games at Sts James’s Park since last year’s takeover – provided drinks and nibbles for the squad, and he spoke to Howe about the progress being made by the third-placed club. Joelinton left Al-Rumayyan’s house convinced everyone was “going in the same direction”.