10-year plan to go top

Newcastle flush with cash and fans brimming with optimism after Saudi-led £300m takeover

LONDON • Newcastle's £300 million (S$554.5 million) sale to the Saudi Arabia-backed consortium is a deal that could turn the long-time underachievers into a major English Premier League power.

The Magpies last lifted domestic silverware in the 1955 FA Cup final and have twice been relegated in the past 15 years - the latest being in 2015-16.

But with the near-unlimited funds now at their disposal, the fortunes of Newcastle could easily change in a couple of seasons.

The club's new director Amanda Staveley revealed on Thursday that the Saudi-led ownership is aiming to win the English top flight - something they last achieved in 1926-27 - within 10 years.

The takeover by the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, means the Arabs have a majority 80 per cent stake, with the British financier and property billionaires, the Reuben brothers, holding 10 per cent apiece.

Euphoria has erupted among Newcastle supporters after the end of the troubled 14-year ownership of the club by retail tycoon Mike Ashley, who was widely disliked for his lack of spending and general lack of interest in moving the team forward.

Even during their heyday in the late 90s and early 2000s when they challenged for the league at various points and twice qualified for the Champions League, the biggest name they attracted was former England captain Alan Shearer, who wanted to play for his boyhood club. Players of that pedigree are now likely to be interested in a move to St James' Park if the new owners can lay out a blueprint for future success.

Asked about her vision for Newcastle over the next five to 10 years, Staveley told Sky Sports: "Newcastle United deserves to be top of the Premier League. It will take time, but we will get there."

While she sought to temper expectations about Newcastle's immediate prospects, the sleeping giants, who enjoy one of the best support in the country, will undoubtedly be transformed.

"We want to be great custodians of this club," the 48-year-old Briton said. "What we don't want to be in danger of is over-promising... we want to see it get trophies, top of the Premier League, in Europe. To get trophies means investment, patience, time."

On speculation surrounding the future of under-fire manager Steve Bruce, Staveley was tight-lipped.

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The likes of former Chelsea and Inter Milan boss Antonio Conte, who would represent an immediate and massive upgrade, has been linked to the hot seat on Tyneside.

"I did speak to the manager and we look forward to speaking to him over the next few days," Staveley said. "We're very supportive of Steve. What we're going to do is not talk about managers or what big signings we can make. We're going to review the football operations, the commercial side, and come back and make some decisions."

Shearer is prepared to give the new owners as much time as possible to rebuild Newcastle.

The all-time Premier League and Magpies goalscorer with 260 and 206 strikes respectively told the BBC: "The dream is that we want a little bit of hope. The Newcastle fans haven't mattered for 14 years. Their money hasn't been invested and they've not been consulted. To have a club that has such passionate support but not have that level of consultation isn't good.

"We now have owners that will invest and that's important for fans to see that... We don't expect to be winning the league in the next few years or winning the Champions League, we expect a bit of something to look forward to."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2021, with the headline '10-year plan to go top'. Subscribe