Pakistan cricket legend Wasim Akram ‘looking forward’ to launching Saudi cricket league

Pakistan cricket legend Wasim Akram ‘looking forward’ to launching Saudi cricket league
Pakistan cricket legend Wasim Akram ‘looking forward’ to launching Saudi cricket league

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe believes Newcastle United are now being viewed by the Premier League “Big Six” as a clear and present danger — and the recent transfer window proves it.

The Magpies tried in vain to nab loan deals from the likes of Chelsea in the closing hours of the window, but were hit with a brick wall from the Champions League-chasing, high-spending Blues.

And Howe thinks that’s the biggest evidence yet that those in the traditional positions of power are intimidated by the presence of the ambitious, Saudi-embellished Magpies.

“That’s your words not mine, but yeah, I think you’re on the right lines,” said Howe when asked if the top six now see United as direct rivals.

“I think it is potentially difficult for us. It depends on the player and it depends on the club but I think we’re probably aware we are seen differently this season to how we were last season.

“We are viewed differently probably by some clubs now and that is something we will have to adjust to.”

Tuesday saw the winter transfer window slam to a close with Newcastle still looking for a player to replace exited Jonjo Shelvey. The midfielder spent seven years at the club but left for Nottingham Forest with his current deal set to end in the summer.

It was a departure Howe did not welcome, especially with star man Bruno Guimaraes having to sit out the next three games due to a suspension picked up in the Carabao Cup win against Southampton.

Ahead of the visit of West Ham United to Tyneside in the Premier League, Howe said: “We’re going to miss him massively, he’s a huge player and done ever so well for us.

“Whenever you lose one player, you have to readjust. There will an opportunity now for the team to regroup and find another way.

“But certainly the timing is really difficult. We’ve had a really intense period of games and now we don’t and Bruno seems to miss a long period of time away. The good thing for Bruno is he’ll be available for the final.”

On Shelvey, Howe continued: “Losing Jonjo has been a concern for us.

“We have had a lot of discussions internally. We were active in the market but we didn’t manage to get a midfielder over the line.”

“In some senses, that gives opportunities to other players,” the coach said. “We really believe in Elliot Anderson and this could be a moment in his career where we see the very best of him. A local lad who gets a chance in the team. There are others who can play in that position. Bruno’s suspension came at the worst time in the worst position possible. Sometimes, these things happen.”

While concerns about absentees remains at the forefront of Howe’s thinking, he will have two new boys available for selection against the Hammers, one of which was a deadline-day capture from the East London outfit.

Anthony Gordon, ineligible in the Carabao Cup, and Harrison Ashby, nabbed from West Ham, are both likely to take their place on the bench on Saturday.

“Both players will be available, yes,” said Howe.

“They’ve trained well. They’ve done a couple of individual training sessions around the game because they weren’t eligible to play. Trained with the group yesterday, although it was a small group, so they haven’t actually trained fully with team but both are fit and fine.”

Having been taken off in a precautionary measure on Tuesday night, Alexander Isak remains a doubt after suffering a head knock.

“Alex actually made a vital contribution in that moment. James Ward-Prowse’s free-kick, naturally we discussed those situations a lot in the build up to both games and knowing how good he is, he (Isak) blocked the free-kick and took a blow to the side of the head,” Howe said.

“He had very slight signs of concussion. We’ve followed all the protocols. Whether he’ll be available or not, we’re not sure.”

“He’s been around, and he’s looked fine,” Howe added. “I don’t think he’s got any ill-effects. I don’t think he had any ill-effects the next day. Every day he’s felt better. He’s fine, no problems.”

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