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Newcastle: Eddie Howe confirms trip to Saudi Arabia in winter break, hints at playing friendly

Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe has confirmed the club will visit Saudi Arabia during the Premier League’s winter break.

Howe also hinted that Newcastle may play a friendly match in the gulf state — whose Public Investment Fund (PIF) own 80 per cent of the club after the takeover last autumn.

The Athletic reported on Monday that Newcastle were still considering the merits of a warm-weather training camp in Saudi Arabia, after human rights organisation Amnesty International expressed fears it could turn into “another PR opportunity for the Saudi authorities who are trying to sportswash their appalling human rights record”.

Howe, however, stated that Newcastle are planning on heading to Saudi Arabia during the winter break, which begins after this weekend’s round of fixtures.

He said: “The plan is to go away, I think it’s vitally important. I’ll talk about COVID, in respect that a lot of the protocols you have around the training ground are encouraging isolation, quite rightly to protect everybody. But it doesn’t help you to foster a team spirit and the togetherness we’re going to need in the battle to stay in the division.

“So I think it’s important that we encourage that unity, going away is a great idea. It’ll be a work training camp; we will be training and working and playing a game. So I think it’s vitally important that people know we’re going to be very active.”

Asked whether there was a plan to meet the new owners, Howe added: “I don’t know any of those details at the moment.”

Newcastle face a trip to Leeds United in the Premier League on Saturday, with their next fixture not until February 8 against Everton. Their break is longer than that afforded to some other Premier League sides after Howe’s side were knocked out of the FA Cup by Cambridge United in the third round.

(Photo: Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)

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