'The Saudis won’t mess around': Newcastle United takeover verdict, Premier League uncertainty and managerial change

The takeover of Newcastle United by PCP Capital Partners, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia and Reuben Brothers is edging ever closer – but what does the future look like for the Magpies?

Sunday, 10th May 2020, 12:30 pm
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - MAY 15:  Mauricio Pochettino Manager of Tottenham Hotspur and Rafael Benitez manager of Newcastle United greet prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur at St James' Park on May 15, 2016 in Newcastle, England.  (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - MAY 15: Mauricio Pochettino Manager of Tottenham Hotspur and Rafael Benitez manager of Newcastle United greet prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur at St James' Park on May 15, 2016 in Newcastle, England. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Our writers Liam Kennedy and Jordan Cronin go through the big issues at St James’s Park in our regular Q&A ‘Toon Trending Topic’.

This week, ‘doing a Manchester City’, what next after Steve Bruce and Project Restart are the topic of conversation.

Guillem Balague this week claimed Newcastle's Saudi owners-in-waiting want to 'do a Man City' but 'much quicker' – with the right investment do you believe the Saudis can not only bring silverware to Tyneside, but dominance?

LK: “I always thought everyone outside of Tyneside had little idea just how big Newcastle United are, and can be. It seems I was wrong. Reports of Saudi investment in United seems to have brought to the table plenty who belittled the Magpies previously, but now appear scared at the prospect of ‘little old United’ overtaking them. Everton fans – that one is pointed firmly in your direction. But on a serious note, I, as with many United fans, know in my heart what Newcastle is and can be. They are traditionally a bigger club than Chelsea and Manchester City – of that there is no doubt. In that sense, the Saudis have more of a base to start with on Tyneside. The fanbase is huge and the appetite for hope even bigger. If this club gets on a role, it will take some stopping – and I can’t wait.”

JC: “I really do believe the sky’s the limit at Newcastle United. I’ve seen fans mocked on social media for saying: ‘you don’t realise how big NUFC is until you’re in and around the city’ and it is absolutely correct. We talk about the rise of Manchester City but, and no disrespect, they didn’t have the infrastructure Newcastle have. Bar the training ground, the club already has a massive, passionate fanbase, an unbelievable stadium and a huge amount of history. What I would say though is that the money needs to be invested wisely – which I’m sure it will be – rather than going big too quick. But certainly over a period of time, why not? There’s no harm in dreaming – that is what fans have been starved of for last 13 years.”

It took Man City four years to win a trophy under Sheikh Mansour. What would be a realistic finish for United under new ownership in their first Premier League season?

LK: “Significant progress is all you can ask for. A lower mid-table finish is likely this season (if it ever gets played out), and you’d have to think a push to the top eight is a must under new ownership. Beyond that consistent European football and then, if they get things right, trophies is the absolute goal. Ask any Newcastle fan and they’d tell you a League Cup trophy and Europa League qualification would do. But the Saudis are not making the massive jump into the Premier League to mess around – and I think their ambitions will prove a whole lot higher than ours.”

JC: “As much as I and Newcastle fans are chomping for success, the club is rotten to the core under Mike Ashley and that will take some time to repair. It’s exciting to know Amanda Staveley has drawn up plans to reconnect the club with the city – that must take precedence. If you get that right, I believe the on-field stuff will sort itself with the significant investment we know the Saudis will bring. Obviously it depends how this summer will pan out due to the coronavirus but that could work in Newcastle’s advantage. All in all, I’d be content with a top-half finish and a cup run – anything will be an upgrade on worrying about the relegation!”

Which manager would you prefer to see get the job post-takeover?

LK: “I’m torn on this one. Firstly, I would love to see Rafa Benitez get a chance to finish what he started at United. He had plans to build this club from the bottom up but was pulled back at every turn by Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley. An academy revamp, training ground upgrade and better style of play were what he wanted, but unable to deliver due to the tools at his disposal. Also, this is largely his team and he knows the club – he gets it. Benitez would hit the ground running. But, secondly, I am intrigued about the prospect of new beginnings with a Max Allegri or Mauricio Pochettino. This appointment would be an instant win with fans, as even with two hands tied behind his back Benitez had his doubters within the Magpies’ faithful.”

JC: “I don’t think any fan can complain about the names being linked – I’m certainly not (although I am not overly keen on Andre Villas-Boas). Allergi has been mentioned but I’d lean towards either Benitez or Pochettino because of their Premier League experience. I like the idea of Pochettino but you can’t say Benitez doesn’t deserve to finish what he started. He realised the potential of Newcastle almost immediately, restored hope and stood up to Ashley. Benitez had everything Magpies fans wanted in a manager. He just ‘gets it’.

What are your thoughts on Project Restart?

LK: “It’s tinfoil hat time at the Premier League. I just do not see how the logistics, ethics, everything can work on this one. It is asking so much of so many to try and get these games on. I could understand if it was two or three fixtures, but it is NINE rounds of 10 games. I just can't see how one club, with all the players and support staff needed to operate, can get through even one week without a negative test, never mind 20 clubs getting through a month.”

JC: “I’ve said for weeks the season should be cancelled and decided via points per game or null and void, and I lean towards the latter. The saying is ‘if safe to do so’ and I can’t see how that will be the case come this time next month. You’re already seeing players voicing concerns over their safety, so could we see a potential revolt? We all desperately want football back but is it really worth putting people’s health at risk? Absolutely not. It’s all money-driven.”

Would it be a good thing or bad thing for Newcastle United to finish the Premier League season?

LK: “When it comes to a restart I have to say, I have my doubts about United – and even more so following the takeover. United are traditionally poor starters to the league season. This nine games will essentially be a mini-campaign, with more of an even playing field, and everyone coming into it cold. The gap is significant to the relegation places but I’d rather not risk it. From a football perspective, I want the games on. Purely from an NUFC perspective – call it off and let’s start thinking about next season and transfers.”

JC: “Although relegation is still a possibility, you’d like to think Steve Bruce would achieve the one or two wins to guarantee safety. It’d be typical NUFC wouldn’t it? The takeover goes through, the season resumes and they get relegated! Again, I very much doubt that would happen but I’d rather not risk it. No one seems to be talking about the FA Cup on Tyneside and I think that tells you everything you need to know. Let’s start looking ahead to next season under an exciting new era. Imagining winning the FA Cup in front of no fans – it wouldn't feel right for any club, let alone a one who hasn’t won a major trophy since 1955…”