‘It’s not uncomfortable’ - Eddie Howe confronts questions about Newcastle United’s Saudi Arabia owners

Everything Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe said on Saudi Arabia questions amid recent scrutiny.

Eddie Howe has confronted the questions surrounding Newcastle United’s Saudi Arabian ownership.

The Magpies head coach came under criticism following the club’s 1-0 defeat at Chelsea for not addressing the questions being asked.

The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia own 80% of the football club, while PCP Partners and RB Sport & Media hold a 10% stake each.

In October, the Premier League approved the takeover after receiving “legally binding assurances” that the Saudi state would not control the club.

Howe accepts he will be faced with geo-political questions and explained his reasons for failing to address the matters at lenght ahead of the trip to Everton on Thursday.

Q: There has been a little bit of criticism aimed at you after not speaking on Sunday about the issues and the situation over in Saudi Arabia, have you had a chance to think about it?

“It’s a difficult one for everyone concerned. I understand the questions have to be asked, I’ve got no problem with that.

“From my perspective – and I’ve always maintained this – my specialist subject is football. It’s what I know, it’s what I’ve trained to do.

“As soon as I deviate from that into an area where I don’t feel qualified to have a huge opinion, I think I go into dangerous ground, so I prefer to stick to what I believe I know.

“I’m hugely proud to represent this football club and the supporters and the city and I’m trying to create a team the city can be proud of, and all my energy is going into that and will continue to.”

Q: Have you started reading up around the subject you’re being pressed on, not to come in here and talk about it, but just to arm yourself with that knowledge?

“Yes, definitely, I have done that. I will continue to do so. Anyone who has seen me work behind the scenes knows that I am football and job obsessed. Part of my job now, in the modern, football management scene, is to know what is going on around the world. I will do that.

“But football has to be, and will always be, my passion and the main crux of my job. I think that is where my time needs to be spent.”

Q: When you first approached about the Newcastle job, were those subjects a real consideration for you at the time?

“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.

“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.”

Q: How uncomfortable is it being asked about geo-politics?

“It’s not uncomfortable to be asked about it and I understand you have to ask me, but then it’s my right to answer in the way that I feel is best for me and Newcastle United.

“At the moment, I feel it’s best that I give you as much as I can without going into an area that I feel is not the right place for me to go to.

“As I say, we’ve got a game tomorrow and that has to be my energy, otherwise the team will suffer."

Q: Have you had political discussions with players?

“No, I’ve not had any political discussions with my players. That’s not to say I wouldn’t have them or discourage them but when I go to a team meeting, I’m going in to discuss how they can improve defending the back post or one-v-one duels. It has to be football and their focus has to be that. Playing football in the Premier League is difficult enough without any other thoughts on how to give your best performance.

“Just like managers, players are the same. Educating yourself on all areas of the world is a positive thing and I think these discussions, if they do highlight issues that need to be addressed around the world, again is a positive thing.”

Q: Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville said you needed to say a bit more, have you got a response to that?

“I respect their opinion. I get on really well with Gary and Jamie, I’ve got no issue with what they said. But ultimately, it’s my right to say and react in a way that is right for me and my football club, and I’ll continue to do that.”

Q: Have you always been interested in politics?

"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 teammates.

“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.

“Now that I’m managing, your free 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.”

Q: Do you expect to be asked the same (human rights, geo-politics) questions for as long as you are here?

"My wish is to just talk about football of course. That is, I believe my best subject and I enjoy talking football with you guys and I will do that until I am told to stop. So of course, that is my preference."

Q: Have you had guidance from the owners on these issues? Would you like them to come out and ace these questions as well?

"I’ve had discussions with them on various things. Would I like them to come out? No, 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. That’s for them to do.

“Obviously, I face you guys every week and that’s an absolute privilege to do that so I understand that you have to ask varied questions on various subjects, and I’ve got no issue in dealing with those."