The Saudi-led takeover of Newcastle United was completed 12 months agoClub's fortunes have been transformed but moral questions are still raisedManager Eddie Howe was determined to focus only on football on anniversaryHe said he retains faith in the Premier League's owners and directors testNewcastle mark a year of Saudi ownership at home to Brentford on Saturday
Eddie Howe says he can still separate football from politics one year on from Newcastle’s Saudi-led takeover and admits he was never going to turn down a job he feared he had lost to Unai Emery.
The head coach has again faced questions on the morality of Saudi ownership in the Premier League, given the country’s human-rights record and their alleged involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
But Howe has put his faith in the League’s owners and directors test and believes the allegiance between the UK government and Saudi Arabia has strengthened the decision to approve the takeover.
Eddie Howe was appointed Newcastle manager now long after the Saudi-led takeover of the club a year ago. He is pictured alongside director Amanda Staveley and her husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi at his unveiling at St James’ Park
Newcastle have been transformed from relegation strugglers to potential top six finishers
‘I understand the question (concerns over Saudi ownership). But for me, through the owners and directors test, the Premier League had ratified the takeover and I have to have faith in that process,’ he said.
‘When the job offer came to me, I was looking at it purely on a football basis. Do I want to manage Newcastle United Football Club? And the answer was a resounding yes.
‘It’s always about the football for me. If I veer too far from that and I go into areas of the club that won’t benefit my players or the team, then I’m not going to do my players justice.’
Asked about the economic ties between the UK and Saudi Arabia, Howe added: ‘That gives a different slant on a lot of what is said and yes, I’m aware of that.
Newcastle chairman and owner Yasir Al-Rumayyan with Amanda Staveley at the first game following the takeover last October
Howe only wanted to focus on the football side on the one-year anniversary of the takeover
‘I’ve never really answered these questions in press conferences because I don’t want to go into an area that is not a specialist subject for me.
‘If I start engaging in those conversations, I go into an area where I’m not comfortable. I don’t have the knowledge.
‘But I am aware of that (they are allies) and I think it does give strength to the owners and directors test, which was vigorous.’
Supporters will be celebrating 12 months of new ownership at home to Brentford on Saturday and, in Howe, they have a manager who has proven immensely popular. However, he only got the job after Villarreal boss Emery pulled out at the 11th hour.
‘The moment I found out it was myself and Unai going for the job, I sort of resigned myself that it wasn’t going to be mine,’ reflected Howe.
Unai Emery was set to be appointed Newcastle boss last year but pulled out at the 11th hour
‘For obvious reasons, you look at his track record and the clubs that he’s managed.
‘I was quite relaxed about the situation because I’m a believer in fate and certain things happening for a reason. If it was not meant to be, it was not meant to be.
‘I could not get too down about it in that moment, while there was also a sense of huge disappointment because I felt, for me, Newcastle was the one that I wanted.
‘Then it happened very quickly and things changed, that is where the fate part comes around and I was only too happy to take the opportunity. You go from thinking what could have been to… well, I won’t swear!
Newcastle won 4-1 at Fulham last weekend and will entertain Brentford this Saturday
‘I went into work mode. My wife said goodbye to me that morning and that was me done! But she has seen it before, I’m tunnel vision.
‘I’m here to try and prove that I’m the right man to lead the club forward – not just for now but for the future. I want to manage this club for a long time.’