NEWCASTLE fans are still nervously waiting to see if a £300m Saudi-led takeover for the club goes ahead.
The north-east club continue their "no comment" stance on takeover reports, but the latest suggests Saudi Arabia will bid for Premier League TV rights to ensure their deal goes through.
Follow all the latest updates from the North East below…
WHEL'S IN MOTION
Noel Whelan reckons the Newcastle takeover is a done deal.
The former Leeds, Coventry and Middlesbrough forward told Football Insider: “I don’t think there’s going to be anything that’s going to stop this, I really don’t – otherwise I don’t think Mike Ashley would have entertained it.
“Everyone’s going to have done their homework, their due diligence on the takeover.
“They wouldn’t have put anything in place if they didn’t think it was safe or there were going to be stumbling blocks.
“I think it’s a matter of time really, the quicker the better. Now the Premier League’s going to get back underway, the takeover deal can get done and Newcastle can start looking forward to a very bright and exciting future under new owners.”
CHEER FOR FANS
Premier League chief exec Richard Masters is positive that there will be a return of fans to grounds in ‘phases’.
He said: “No one knows when matches will move away from the behind-closed-doors model and it is right to have contingency plans in place.
“But there is optimism at the Premier League and at clubs that we will see fans back in the stadiums next season and it may happen on a phased basis.
“Hopefully it will be a huge morale boost and that is what we've been working towards.
“We've got some incredible fans in this country and we all know the Premier League as we know and love it won't be fully back until we have fans back through the turnstiles.
“Getting it back on our TV screens for people to enjoy will hopefully give the whole country a boost.”
Hotshot Lille striker Victor Osimhen, 21, is among the strikers being linked with Newcastle – according to the player’s agent.
He said: “I can confidently tell you that the only club that wants Victor 100 per cent right now is Napoli.
“But the final decision on whether he wants to join them lies with him.
“Also, Newcastle are in the race just like Tottenham.
“But it’s just interest alone. No real sign of commitment from them.
“I think with the pressure from different clubs in Europe, I doubt if he will stay with Lille in the coming season.”
The FA Cup semi-finals will take place over the weekend of 18-19 July, according to the FA.
The schedule for the Emirates FA Cup quarter-finals, which was originally drawn on March 4, are due to take place on June 27 and 28:
- Leicester City v Chelsea
- Newcastle United v Manchester City
- Sheffield United v Arsenal
- Norwich City v Manchester United
Six Premier League games will be played at neutral venues due to a request from the police.
Liverpool's clash against Everton – which could see Jurgen Klopp's side secure the title – is one of the matches included.
Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts said: “Our discussions with the Premier League throughout this process have been positive, with a shared focus on the priority of public health.
“As such we have reached a consensus that balances the needs of football, while also minimising the demand on policing.
“The majority of remaining matches will be played, at home and away as scheduled, with a small number of fixtures played at neutral venues.”
Newcastle’s buyers are hoping the Premier League re-start can give them a clear path for a takeover.
The takeover, funded by the Reuben brothers and the Saudi Arabia Public Investment fund is being fronted by Amanda Staveley.
But a different consortium have hit a snag before, when trying to buy out Mike Ashley’s ownership of the club last year.
The Premier League are reviewing the takeover, which is controversial because of the Saudi Arabia-backed murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.
Richard Masters told the BBC: “I can’t say anything about it. It’s an entirely confidential process and I can’t say anything to prejudice that process.”
FOOTBALL RICH LIST REVEALED
KPMG have come up with a top ten of football's richest clubs.
Real Madrid are top of the tree but Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal are all on there.
Could the Toon be about to join them?
MORE ON STONES
Phillips added: “I like him, he is a good player and a fresh start somewhere else would do him the world of good.
“If he could jump on that train at Newcastle – who knows where it could be heading.
“He has won stuff at Manchester City but it might be that time for him to leave.
“I am not sure that Pep Guardiola trusts him so it might be best for all parties.”
STONES CAN ROCK AGAIN
John Stones has been backed to make a “fresh start” at Newcastle.
After a superb second season at Manchester City, following a bumpy bedding-in period under Pep Guardiola, the 26-year-old has struggled for form in 2019-20.
That could be down to the departure of Vincent Kompany and injuries to Aymeric Laporte.
But former Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips reckons Stones should jump at the chance.
He told Football Insider: “I think John Stones should get out of Manchester City.
“It has not quite worked out for John. He came for big money as a young lad and there was a lot of pressure…
RETURN OF RAFA?
Could this man ride back into Tyneside to make a big return to the St James' dugout?
According to multiple reports, Rafa Benitez could be the man to spearhead the Toon revolution of the takeover goes through.
GOOD MORNING NEWCASTLE FANS
Newcastle are now preparing for their return to action over the weekend of Friday June 19 to Sunday June 21, after the Premier League confirmed their plans for Project Restart.
The Magpies. haven't played since March 7, when they beat Southampton 1-0 at St Mary's, with their next scheduled fixture due to be a home clash with Sheffield United.
Newcastle have maintained their “no comment” status on all takeover enquiries, as the Saudi Arabia group headed by Mohammed bin Salman looks to buy the club.
The Newcastle Chronicle say the Bin Salman group remain confident that they will pass the Premier League's 'fit and proper' test, with reports of a delay being played down.
And boss Steve Bruce has admitted his squad are still getting used to life after lockdown.
The Magpies trained yesterday for the first time as a group since March, but players left the training ground straight after the session without the usual routine of visits to the treatment room and canteen for lunch.
He said: “The world has changed – and it's not normal.
“After a session like that there would normally be massages and that's not allowed or go to the canteen.
“They have to arrive dressed and park three places away.
“So it's all stuff you have to adhere to yourself.
“We have proven it looks very safe.”
The FA Cup final could be staged on August 1 – seven days earlier than scheduled.
Premier League bosses have agreed that the top-flight season should restart on June 17 and finish on July 25 or 26.
This means the FA could end the season with their showpiece final on August 1 with the match – along with the semi-finals – to be staged behind closed doors at Wembley.
Football chiefs were expecting an August 8 final as it was feared the Premier League was not going to restart until June 26.
But the news of a June 17 date has given the organisation a big boost and a bit more time to play with.
FREESY DOES IT
Liverpool could clinch their first-ever Premier League title live on Sky Sports.
And fans will be able to watch it for FREE alongside 24 other matches on the football giant.
Sky Sports will show 64 matches in total when the Premier League returns on June 17.
And 25 of those will be free-to-air, meaning viewers do not need a subscription to tune in for the action.
One of those games will be the Merseyside derby between Everton and Liverpool on the first weekend.
And Jurgen Klopp’s men will taste glory if Manchester City lose to Arsenal days before on Wednesday June 17.
THE HOUSE OF SAUD
There will be four matches on Sundays too, at 12pm, 2pm, 4.30pm and 7pm.
In order to fit in all games on TV, new kick-off times will be introduced.
Friday and Monday games will be at 8pm, while Saturday will have FOUR matches starting at 12.30pm, 3pm, 5.30pm and 8pm.
Midweek games, played on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays, will have 6pm and 8pm starts, allowing fans to watch footie all evening.
Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters confirmed earlier reports by saying: “Today we have provisionally agreed to resume the Premier League on Wednesday 17 June.
“But this date cannot be confirmed until we have met all the safety requirements needed, as the health and welfare of all participants and supporters is our priority.
‘’Sadly, matches will have to take place without fans in stadiums, so we are pleased to have come up with a positive solution for supporters to be able to watch all the remaining 92 matches.
“The Premier League and our clubs are proud to have incredibly passionate and loyal supporters. It is important to ensure as many people as possible can watch the matches at home.
“We will continue to work step-by-step and in consultation with all our stakeholders as we move towards resuming the 2019/20 season.”
Premier League chiefs have confirmed England's top flight WILL return on June 17 – with Manchester City vs Arsenal starting the action.
New kick-off times have been announced and all 92 remaining matches will be televised.
As part of the plans to show every game, four matches will be shown for free on BBC for the first time.
However, all safety requirements must be in place for Project Restart to go ahead.
HOMES FROM HOMES
Liverpool's remaining home games as well as some major London derbies will reportedly be played at neutral venues.
The measures will be taken in order to deter fans from gathering outside the stadiums, according to the Times.
LOOK OVER HAIR
Valentino Lazaro asked his Twitter followers which of this Magpies quartet had the best barnet as Newcastle returned to training after lockdown.
Newcastle's players were back training together today as the Premier League edges closer to a return.
Premier League clubs are reportedly looking into arranging friendlies to ensure they enter Project Restart as fit as possible.
Fears over injuries are high ahead of football recommencing next month.
And Daily Telegraph report on today’s discussions between the clubs featuring talk of friendlies.
Interested teams want to be allowed to travel to nearby rivals for full-length matches on training grounds.
Not every manager is said to be desperately behind the idea, but those unconvinced believe they will have to play them anyway to ensure they are not disadvantaged.
Rafael Benitez is the right man to lead Newcastle into their new era, according to his former Valencia player Miguel Angel Angulo.
Along with Mauricio Pochettino, the ex-Toon boss has been touted for a return to Tyneside.
And Angulo believes Benitez would be a “phenomenal” capture for Newcastle.
He told Tribal Football: “I believe he is one of the greatest managers that Valencia have ever had. It was a great experience for us as players, as we learnt a lot under him.
“I think it would be phenomenal for Benitez to return to Newcastle, given how well he knows the club. I know that Benitez was based in England for a long time now but I don't know the reasons that he left Newcastle the first time around.
“He has a great reputation in England and he is very hard working too. It would be great if he could return to the Premier League.”
With Newcastle back in contact training today, club doctor Paul Catterson has admitted his worries over the workouts.
Although coronavirus concerns are not as large as the potential spate of injuries it may bring.
Catterson told the Chronicle: “People have mentioned pre-season many times. The manager has mentioned the fact it has been longer than a normal closed season.
“My main worry is about the contact training we're going to have. We don't want an explosion of injuries in the matches we are about to have.
“We have to try to make the players as robust as possible. It does have a pre-season feel to it, maybe because the sunshine is with us.
“The players are having to work hard. But it's not a normal pre-season. Once we get up and going with the contact part of training it'll feel normal again.”
PO-PO A GO-GO
Police in England have reportedly given the green light for MOST Premier League games taking place at regular venues.
Neutral grounds were touted as a major part of Project Restart but were met with fierce opposition from several teams.
The Mail now reports that police are happy for games to be held across the country, in each of the 20 grounds.
Yet they still hold reservations over a small number of high-profile matches that could still attract fans to gather outside the ground – breaking coronavirus restrictions.
Newcastle players are back in full group training for the first time today.
Following the Premier League's vote to take another step towards Project Restart, Toon players upped the ante in their session on Thursday morning.
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