Eddie Howe aims to upset Premier League big boys but leaves off-field talk to Newcastle board

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe said on Friday he is determined to continue pushing the Premier League big boys at the top of the table but added that he is happy to leave all the off-field talk to club bosses.

This week has been dominated by discussions, and an imminent vote, about Premier League pacts with regard to a tightening of top-flight rules on player-loan deals between clubs with ownership connections.

The move — and the timing of it, as the Magpies face an injury crisis and are said to be eyeing a possible deal for Saudi Public Investment Fund-owned Al-Hilal’s Ruben Neves in January — is seen by many as an attempt to deny Newcastle the chance to obtain top players in short-term deals from Saudi Pro League outfits which, like Newcastle, are owned by the sovereign wealth fund.

The rule change, which would have to be ratified by at least 14 of the 20 English top-flight clubs, would block all loans of players between clubs with the same owners. As a result, Newcastle would be unable to raid the rosters of top Saudi sides Al-Nassr, Al-Hilal, Al-Ittihad and Al Ahli.

It is believed that the same Premier League meeting, on Nov. 21, will also include a vote on further tightening the rules for related-parties sponsorship deals.

Howe refused to be drawn on the issue of such Premier League discussions and votes, instead preferring to focus on efforts on the pitch to turn up the heat on the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool.

“We are here to compete on the pitch and all of these things we are discussing are off the pitch,” said Howe, whose side take on Bournemouth in the Premier League on Saturday.

“That’s why it is difficult for me to give you an answer that is clear and concise. I’m not involved in those talks I just see and hear things in the media like you do. That’s where I have to be careful and draw a line at what I can talk about. I’m not involved in that world, I’m involved in the football world. We want to compete on the pitch within the rules that are set for us.

“We will work within the rules the Premier League set and we have to respect those rules, whatever they are. But like I’ve said, I will let you decide why those rules are coming in. It’s not a situation I’m in any control over. I’m reacting to what is happening. It’s probably better that you draw conclusions to that, not me.”

When pushed on the motives of clubs for bringing the vote to the table, Howe said: “I wouldn’t know the motives behind the rule changes coming in. It’s very difficult for me to give a definitive opinion. We just have to react to the changes as they come in.”

Premier League profit and sustainability rules will again largely define exactly the degree to which Howe can strengthen his squad during the January transfer window. As the club’s sporting director, Dan Ashworth, said recently, it is often not the best time to spend big but if value is to be had, money will be made available. The need to act could well be heightened as a result of the injury crisis at United, who will be missing 10 players through injury or suspension when they travel to the Vitality Stadium tomorrow.

“Honestly, at the moment I don’t have any plans for January,” Howe said. “It’s such a moving thing, in a sense of we don’t have clearly identified targets. There’s too many moving parts at this stage and a lot of football to be played.

“From our side, there are injuries that may return and injuries that may not return. It’s very difficult for us to have finalized those plans at this stage. A long-winded answer, but no.”

Howe added that he hopes to have Callum Wilson, who was withdrawn midway through the 2-0 loss at Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League midweek, available again on Saturday.

“We’re doing various tests,” he said. “He’s been called up for England so we’re waiting to see if he’ll be fit for this game and then make a decision after.” But he added: “My options are restricted.”

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