After Saudi takeover, Newcastle Utd reaches first cup final since 1999
Newcastle United defeated Southampton 2-1 on Tuesday to reach the finals of the EFL Carabao Cup, their first chance at a major trophy since facing off against Manchester United in the 1999 FA Cup Final.
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Sean Longstaff scored twice to send the Magpies to the final on Sunday February 26 against either Manchester United or Nottingham Forest at Wembley Stadium.
The win is the latest in a string of successes for the team that was purchased by a consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) in October of 2021.
The sale reportedly worth $376 million made Newcastle the richest club in the sport, and its new owners have brought in a raft of changes since then.
After widely unpopular former owner Mike Ashley departed, the consortium replaced manager Steve Bruce with Eddie Howe in November 2021, according to the club’s website.
He got off to a strong start and steered the club clear of relegation – winning 12 matches and drawing one out of their final 18 games of the season.
Howe’s appointment and a new spending spree ($105 million was spent in January 2022 on new players Kieran Trippier, Chris Wood, Bruno Guimaraes, and Dan Burn, the BBC reported) gave new life to the club, which went on an unbeaten run the following month.
The new manager was voted the Barclays Manager of the Month for the fourth time in his career, and in August was rewarded for his efforts with a long-term contract.
Shortly afterwards, another splurge in spending saw the club pay $76 million for 22-year-old Swedish striker Alexander Isak, according to ESPN.
Ticket sales turnaround
By the end of his 14-year tenure, fans had begun to loathe former owner Mike Ashley.
The retail tycoon had, among other things, renamed the beloved home ground of St James’ Park to the Sports Direct Arena, after his chain of discount sporting goods stores.
The club was also relegated twice under his ownership – having only been relegated four other times in its 130-year history.
Profits tanked under his leadership and thousands of season tickets went unsold as fans lost enthusiasm for the club’s performance, The Guardian reported.
But since being taken over by the Saudi-led group, and Howe’s strong start as manager, fans have been buying tickets in droves.
CEO Darren Eales said in October that the club was even considering expanding the 52,000 seat stadium due to unprecedented ticket sales, The Shields Gazette reported.
“We’re sold out,” Eales told the Gazette, “and it’s not a situation like the past where you’re almost giving away season tickets to fill the stadium.”
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