Newcastle United witnesses meteoric rise under PIF-led management

May 26, 2023

Saudi Gazette report

— Newcastle United, which was nowhere in the European Champions League for about 20 years, is making its vibrant presence once again for the coming season, thanks to the qualitative leap made by the club under the ownership of a Saudi-led consortium.

The club has qualified for the 2023-24 UEFA Champions League after securing third place in the English Premier League standings. The club won 70 points in the league competitions coming just behind toppers Manchester City and Arsenal.

Newcastle’s meteoric rise began in early October 2021, when the acquisition of the club by a consortium, headed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), was officially announced. In addition to PIF, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, the consortium includes PCP Capital Partners and the Reuben Brothers.

The takeover proceedings commenced in April 2020 and were successfully concluded in October 2021. The $416 million takeover was widely acclaimed as a sound financial investment for Saudi Arabia. The PIF leverages its investment in Newcastle, and it represents an exciting opportunity for Saudi Arabia, which is restructuring its economy for the post-oil era.

The club has been a member of the Premier League for all but three years of the competition's history, spending 91 seasons in the top flight as of May 2023, and has never dropped below English football’s second tier since joining the Football League in 1893. Newcastle have won four Premier League titles.

The acquisition of the club from its former owner, Mike Ashley, was a turning point for the team, which is embarking on a new journey of remarkable achievements. There has been steady progress in the performance of the club after the takeover. Prudent spending and meticulous and well-thought-out planning are among the factors that have contributed to the miraculous rise in the club’s professional graph.

The team, dubbed “Army of the City”, was able to secure the third European Champions League seat for the English Premier League this season with 70 points, after winning the tie point from its guest rival Leicester City Monday evening.

Newcastle United’s surge in standings in the English Premier League is a story of sustainable efforts to achieve professional excellence. The first step in this respect was the appointment of Eddie Howe as the main coach to head the technical leadership of the team, succeeding veteran Steve Bruce.

Under the leadership of Howe, the club embarked on a successful journey to save the team from the specter of relegation. When Howe took the rein of the club, it was in the 19th or penultimate place in the league standings without any victory. However, Howe has successfully led the team to score win after win.

During the winter transfer period of 2022, Newcastle clinched several important deals. These included international English full-back Kieran Trippier from Atletico Madrid and midfielder Bruno Guimarães. Trippier plays as a right-back for Newcastle United and the England national team. Bruno, a Brazilian professional, plays as a midfielder and in defense for Newcastle United and the Brazil national team.

The team could finish in 11th place in the last season, which was a real achievement that can be certainly attributed to the management and leadership of Howe and his technical team. Though everyone expected that Newcastle would engage in a historic transfer season in the summer of last year, the team turned away from contracting with first-class stars and satisfied itself with sealing deals for the players that the team needed. They included English goalkeeper Nick Pope and Swedish striker Alexander Isak.

Indeed, the start of the season for Newcastle United was superb. This was evident from the fact that the club suffered only one defeat in the first 23 weeks of the league season and that was at the hands of Liverpool.

The team maintained its position among the top four throughout the season, in addition to reaching the final of the English Professional League Cup, which the team lost to Manchester United, forcing the team to wait for an opportunity to win its first title since 1955 in future seasons.

Callum Wilson emerged as the team’s top scorer with 18 goals, bringing it to the largest number of goals scored by a player from Newcastle since the 2003-2004 season. The team’s defense was the most distinguished. It received only 31 goals until last week, thus becoming the second-best defense in the competition after Manchester City, the champions.

Newcastle is returning to the Champions League after a hiatus of 20 years. The last time the team played in the oldest European competition was in 2003-2004 season, after finishing third in the previous season. But the team went out of the competition in the preliminary round itself by suffering defeat from Serbian club Partizan Belgrade.

As for the last participation of the team in Europe, it was in the European League competition in the 2012-2013 season, when the team was knocked out of the competition after suffering defeat at the hands of Portugal's Benfica in the quarter-finals.

After ensuring qualification for the Champions League, Coach Eddie Howe said in remarks to Sky Sports that he did not expect that his team would finish the season by finding a place among the big four. He noted that the journey since he took over the team’s training a year and a half ago from 19th place until reaching the third position today was so exciting and unimaginable.

Howe rejected the assumption that the team would make big deals next summer, stressing he would continue the same approach to support the team by hiring stars for positions that it required.

Several former international players hailed the remarkable achievements of Newcastle United. The Swedish international and Newcastle player, Alexander Isaac, said to BBC Radio: “This qualification means a lot. We knew that this was a long-term project, and for us, achieving this in such a short time is incredible.”

Commenting on Newcastle’s achievement, former Liverpool defender and Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher told the channel: “I am happy that they got this position. I think Newcastle is two to three years ahead of schedule.”

On his part, former Manchester United defender Gary Neville said: “I thought the owners would be extravagant, but their spending was calculated. You see many new owners come to clubs and appoint more coaches and sign many star players, but I liked what they were doing in Newcastle.”

He noted that Newcastle United securing a top-four finish this season would be a monumental achievement. “Magpies are reaping the rewards of the owners adopting a ‘pragmatic’ approach rather than the 'bling' tactic previously seen after lucrative takeovers,” he said.

Former Leicester City and Nottingham Forest midfielder, Neil Lennon, told BBC Radio 5 live: “Newcastle United could be a surprise package in next season’s Champions League. They have had a brilliant season and have some brilliant individuals, but the team as a whole has really been the star.”

He continued: “You've got to give huge credit to Eddie Howe. They've been good to watch, resilient at times, they've got to a cup final, and I think they could be a surprise package in the Champions League next year.”

He added, “They'll invest in the team. I think St James' Park will be a cauldron on a European night, and that will stand them in good stead going into the tournament because they'll need that home support.”

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