Soccer

Newcastle star Jonjo Shelvey hails 'unbelievable' £300m Saudi takeover


Jonjo Shelvey was, like Newcastle’s supporters, anxiously watching the television news last Thursday as he wondered whether the club’s Saudi-led takeover was finally going to happen.

Then, shortly after 5pm, the confirmation statement dropped, accompanied by pictures from St James’ Park as thousands of fans set off flares, downed cans of lager in celebration and sprayed what they had left in the air.

‘Those scenes outside the stadium were incredible,’ says Shelvey. ‘I was going to have a drive down, I wanted to get out there with a beer myself!

Newcastle midfielder Jonjo Shelvey cannot hide his excitement about the club’s takeover 

He said the takeover - led by new board member Amanda Staveley (left) was 'unbelievable news' for fans and praised them for helping to push the deal through

He said the takeover – led by new board member Amanda Staveley (left) was ‘unbelievable news’ for fans and praised them for helping to push the deal through 

‘That reaction at the stadium is unique. The fans have suffered a lot in the past, so I think what we saw was a release of frustration and relief that the deal had finally happened.

‘Credit to the fans, too, because they have helped push this deal through. It gives us all so much to look forward to.

‘I went to watch Newcastle Blue Star on Friday night, my mate plays in goal. There were about 1,000 fans there, fully-grown men wearing Arab clothes, I couldn’t believe it.

‘I got off at half-time because I couldn’t really watch the game in the end, but it was mad. They were so happy.’

Shelvey, who suffered a calf injury in August, is talking to Sportsmail having just played 80 minutes of his comeback match for the club’s Under-23s. It is a timely return.

Shelvey admitted he will have to fight for his place after the £300m Saudi-led acquisition

Shelvey admitted he will have to fight for his place after the £300m Saudi-led acquisition

He is the first Newcastle player to speak publicly about the takeover and is honest enough to admit that, while the overriding emotion is excitement, it also brings some uncertainty for those in the dressing-room.

Shelvey read Amanda Staveley’s comments in the hours after the £305million deal was signed off, during which she told Sportsmail of the club’s ambition to be as big as Manchester City and PSG. The co-owner also spoke of winning the Champions League and Premier League.

‘I probably won’t be around when that does happen!’ says Shelvey, with a smile. ‘I know how long that could take.

‘But to hear someone come in and say that, as a footballer, it makes you want to stay and fight for a place to be a part of it, those aspirations and goals.

‘I’ve got 18 months left on my contract, so it comes down to me to show the people in charge what I’m about. I have to look after number one, it’s my career.

‘So it is nerve-racking, but I’m a positive person and I’ll try to grasp the opportunity with both hands. There is excitement and nerves, I suppose.’

Shelvey speaks with a degree of authority given he is among the club’s longest-serving players, approaching six years on Tyneside.

He believes the sky is the limit for the club now, but warned that success won't come instantly

He believes the sky is the limit for the club now, but warned that success won’t come instantly

Newcastle's vice-captain was delighted to see fans turn out to celebrate the takeover and said he wanted to share a beer with them

Newcastle’s vice-captain was delighted to see fans turn out to celebrate the takeover and said he wanted to share a beer with them 

The vice-captain knows there was a ceiling placed on ambition under Mike Ashley, and the manner in which he now talks of potential is a nod to the frustration that existed among the squad. His frank assessment of the training ground is equally telling.

‘This is unbelievable for the club,’ says the 29-year-old. ‘The fans have been asking for this for a very long time. It’s great news for them.

‘I understand what the fans want – they want Mbappe and Messi. All I can say is, that won’t come overnight, we have to be realistic.

‘In terms of the set-up, we all know the training-ground facilities are below par when it comes to Premier League standard. As players we’ve got on with it and we’ve had to deal with that to the best of our ability. The money just hasn’t been there. That was hard to accept.

‘But the money will be there now. I understand you can’t go spending so much straight away, and it will be a long process, but it’s one that this club and the fans deserve.

‘This club can achieve anything it wants now, the sky is the limit.’

He joked that supporters wanted Kylian Mbappe (left) and Lionel Messi to join, but said the club had to be 'realistic' for the time being

He joked that supporters wanted Kylian Mbappe (left) and Lionel Messi to join, but said the club had to be ‘realistic’ for the time being

For all the talk of the future, the here and now sees Newcastle winless and second from bottom in the Premier League. Head coach Steve Bruce will be sacked before Sunday’s home game with Spurs as the new owners attempt to give the players every chance to kick-start their era with victory.

Shelvey knows they are hopelessly under-achieving given the talent on the books.

‘When you look at some of the players we have, it’s frightening where we actually are,’ says the former England midfielder.

‘First and foremost, we have to stay in the Premier League. January will be a big month for the club.

‘But we have a short-term goal, and that is just to get that first win. With the squad we’ve got, we can do that as soon as Sunday. After that it’s about stringing results together.’

Despite the irony in us sheltering from the Tyneside drizzle beneath a steel staircase at Whitley Park, Shelvey was keen to dispel the notion of this city not being a lure for the very best players.

‘That’s another thing,’ he began, forcefully, ‘people say it will be hard to attract top-level players to Newcastle because it’s not London or Manchester.

Shelvey said the first task for the players was to steer clear of relegation and grab their first win

Shelvey said the first task for the players was to steer clear of relegation and grab their first win

‘But I’ve lived here for nearly six years, it’s a great place. There’s so much to do and it’s a brilliant place to bring up your children. I can’t speak highly enough of this city and the area.’

Attention now turns to Sunday and a sold-out St James’ for what promises to be an occasion of the like not witnessed since the days of Kevin Keegan in the mid-Nineties. It is little wonder Shelvey has declared himself fit.

‘It’s going to be huge,’ he says. ‘We’ve really got to go and put on a show for the fans, because they’ll be right behind us. We can’t wait.’

Players and supporters, it would seem, have waited long enough.



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