EDDIE HOWE has confirmed he will take his Newcastle United players to Saudi Arabia for a training camp in the aftermath of tomorrow’s game at Leeds United.

However, the Magpies head coach has declined to comment on whether he will meet Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman as part of the trip.

The Premier League heads into a winter break after this weekend, with Newcastle’s failure to progress to the FA Cup fourth round meaning they are not due to return to action until they host Everton on February 8 once they have played tomorrow’s game with Leeds.

Howe is keen to take his players away on a training break, and the club’s new Saudi Arabian owners are understood to have pushed for a visit to their country.

The trip will be hugely controversial, with questions bound to be asked about the Saudi Arabian regime’s human rights record and the ruling elite’s alleged involvement in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but Howe insists he is taking his players to the Middle East for ‘footballing reasons’.

He said: “You always have to look at both sides and work out whether you think it’s a worthwhile exercise. I do. I think the facilities will be first class, and I think the players will be well looked after.

“In terms of Covid, everything will be very, very tight. We’ll try to look after everybody, do some good work, and come back here as a united squad.

“It’s a football decision. We’re doing it for the benefit of the players and the group in our fight to stay in the division, and that’s my only thought. The facilities and everything around the trip are going to be first class. We will train, and train hard, in preparation for our next game.

“There’ll be no distraction from my side. It’s about the training, and making sure the players are focused on our next game. We’re just doing it in a different environment to bring the players closer together.”

When asked directly whether he had plans to meet bin Salman or Newcastle’s chairman, Yasir al-Rumayyan, Howe was non-committal.

He said: “I don’t know any of those details at the moment.”