Eddie Howe educating himself over the situation in Saudi Arabia after criticism

The 44-year-old came under criticism at the weekend for side-stepping questions on the matter.

Newcastle head coach Eddie Howe has found himself plunged into a geopolitical debate (Mike Egerton/PA)

By Damian Spellman, PA

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe has revealed he is educating himself over the situation in Saudi Arabia after being criticised for refusing to be dragged into football’s ongoing geopolitical debate.

Howe was thrust into the spotlight at the weekend as the situation surrounding Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and the sanctions imposed on him in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine widened to include the 80 per cent stake Saudi Arabia’s Pubic Investment Fund (PIF) holds in the Magpies after the Gulf state executed 81 people last week.

Asked if he was reading up about the situation, the 44-year-old said: “Yes, definitely I’ve done that and will continue to do so.

Part of my job now in the modern football management scene is to know what's going on around the world and I will have to do that.

Newcastle head coach Eddie Howe

“Anyone that’s seen me work behind the scenes knows that I am… to say ‘football-obsessed’ is an understatement and job-obsessed is an understatement.

“Obviously, part of my job now in the modern football management scene is to know what’s going on around the world and I will have to do that.

“But football will have to be and will always be my passion and it will always be the main crux of my job and I think that’s where my time needs to be spent.”

Newcastle chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan (left) with co-owner Amanda Staveley and her husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Howe, who said he did not want to stray into “dangerous ground” by deviating from his “specialist subject” of football, was also asked if he had considered the issues – human rights campaigners Amnesty International have repeatedly accused the Saudis of “sportswashing” over PIF’s involvement at St James’ Park – before he accepted his job.

Naming consortium leader Amanda Staveley, her husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi and the club’s non-executive chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan in his response, Howe said: “When you’re entering discussions, I’m looking at Newcastle as the club that it is – the stadium, the supporter-base, the team, the league position. That had to be my focus then.

“You meet the people behind the scenes – Amanda, Mehrdad, Yasir – brilliant people who I have a great relationship with. A lot of trust has been built between us.

“And, of course, the club is owned by people who the Premier League have allowed to own a football club. From my side, that is as far as it went.

Eddie Howe (left) kept up with current affairs during his playing days (Phil Noble/PA)

“I have reviewed my decision based upon the people I have met and, from day one, we have had a great relationship. I am very proud to manage this football club. It is a very special place.”

Asked if he felt the owners needed to come out and answer similar questions, Howe added: “They will do what they think is right for the football club and they’re also acting in the best interests of Newcastle United, like I am.”

Howe, who takes his side to struggling Everton on Thursday evening, revealed current affairs has always been part of his life, but admitted his workload has taken a toll.

He said: “I was a footballer with a slight difference. I was 19 or 20 at Bournemouth going onto the team bus with The Times under my arm and getting some very strange looks from my team-mates.

“But I come from a family where things were pushed towards me and I was quite interested in world politics. I had a little more time when I was playing to actually look into it.

Howe (second left) will support his players if they want to educate themselves about human rights issues (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“Now that I’m managing, your time is such a scarce resource, really. That is not to say I don’t keep up to date. It is something I will have to dedicate more time to, but it has gone out of my life slightly.”

Howe said he would support his players if they too sought to educate themselves about the matters raised in recent weeks, but insisted football must remain their focus.

He said: “These discussions, if they do highlight issues around the world, then that’s a positive thing, so I’ve got no issue on it – but my players need to be focused on playing football.”

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