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Eddie Howe confirms Newcastle United will stage warm weather training camp in Saudi Arabia

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe has confirmed Newcastle United will visit Riyadh for a warm weather training camp next week.

As revealed by Arab News last week the Magpies will fly to Saudi Arabia following their Premier League game against Leeds United on Saturday.

Newcastle do not have another Premier League game until they host Duncan Ferguson’s Everton at St James’ Park on February 8, with next weekend free due to the fact they were dumped out of the FA Cup by lower-league Cambridge United earlier this month.

Howe described the trip to Saudi Arabia as “vitally important” for his team.

“Going away will encourage unity,” he said. “It will be a work training camp — we will be training, working and playing a game. I want people to know we are going to be very active.”

When asked whether the long-haul flights were a concern — they face a near 14-hour return journey to visit the home of new majority owners PIF — Howe said: “I think it is all manageable. The distances aren’t too far. We have a big gap between games and we are comfortable with the impact that will have on the players. I think it is a worthwhile exercise. The facilities will be first-class. I think we will be well looked after.

“We will go away, work hard and hopefully come back with a more united squad,” he continued.

While Howe stressed that the visit was a work trip, it will also double as a PR exercise.

When asked whether the players would meet key members of the Saudi establishment, Howe said: “I don’t know any of those details at the moment.”

Meanwhile, Howe admitted it has been a frustrating week on the transfer front for United. The Magpies have failed to add any new players since securing the capture of Chris Wood eight days ago.

Howe accepts, however, that it is tougher to do deals in this winter transfer window than ever before, especially with clubs reluctant to let players go in case of a COVID outbreak.

“It has been a slightly frustrating week for us in the transfer market,” the head coach said. “We know we’re against a deadline and everyone at the club is trying to improve the squad. We are working very hard behind the scenes, but it has been a fruitless search this week.”

Howe, who is pushing hard to sign Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard, continued: “It has been a very difficult window for everybody, but more so (for us) as the takeover has elevated what other clubs think Newcastle can pay.”

One thing is for certain though, United will continue to push for new signings to aid their relegation fight, right up to the deadline on January 31.

“We are keen to add players in certain areas to strengthen. Usually there is a late flurry and it is always hard to predict what will happen later on. But we will be trying to add to the squad right until the last day,” said Howe. “We have been working behind the scenes tirelessly. Everyone associated with recruitment has been working every hour to try and get the right outcome for the football club.

“I have always said, the main focus should never go away from the players that we have in the building — they are the guys who will take on Leeds and will make the difference,” he continued. “If we can add support to that, that’s great.”

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