Newcastle United co-owner Amanda Staveley has made a bid to throw out a bankruptcy petition against her alleging she owes a shipping tycoon more than £36 million, the High Court heard.

Ms Staveley, who headed the Saudi-backed consortium that took over the football club in 2021, asked the Insolvency and Companies Court to set aside a demand served by Greek businessman Victor Restis in May last year.

The claimed figure comprises £3.4 million in principal, £2.1 million in “legal costs and expenses” and £31.3 million in interest, totalling £36.8 million, according to Ms Staveley’s lawyers.

The specialist court heard it is “common ground” that Mr Restis agreed in 2008 to arrange a £10 million investment in Ms Staveley’s business ventures, but that there was “some ambiguity” about whether this was a loan or some other form of investment.

In May 2016, the parties entered an agreement.

According to written submissions by Ms Staveley’s lawyer, Ted Loveday, his client was told to sign various other documents and instruments between 2017 and 2021, which ultimately said she was personally liable and which incrementally topped up that liability.

“The various post-2016 instruments… were procured by duress, undue influence and/or misrepresentation,” Mr Loveday said.

“The debt of £3.4 million had morphed into a debt in excess of £10 million, and which was said to exceed £36 million by May 2023,” he added.

Ms Staveley claimed she felt intimidated into signing the post-2016 documents, the court heard.

A specialist judge was told that Mr Restis’ lawyer, John Neocleous, allegedly told Ms Staveley that the shipping magnate “was not a man to be messed with, that he was dangerous and that (she) should not cross him”.

Mr Loveday said in written submissions that she “worried for the safety of herself and her family”.

“Ms Staveley felt understandably intimidated and felt she had no option but to sign,” he added.

Mr Loveday also said that Ms Staveley claimed her Huntington’s disease, which she allegedly made no secret of from Mr Restis or Mr Neocleous, affected her thinking and judgment.

But lawyers for Mr Restis said there is “no evidence” of “undue influence or duress”.

Raquel Agnello KC told the court that Ms Staveley was sent documents, given time to look over them and given opportunities to make revisions before she signed them.

In written submissions, Ms Agnello said: “There is a real lack of reality in relation to an assertion of duress as to the agreements.

“There is no evidence of any unlawful conduct by either Mr Restis or Mr Neocleous.”

She told the court there is no evidence “beyond (Ms Staveley’s) bare assertion” that Mr Restis is a dangerous man.

Referring to Ms Staveley’s medical condition in written arguments, Ms Agnello said: “There is no evidence that the debtor actually informed either Mr Restis or Mr Neocleous that she had Huntington’s.

“Importantly, the debtor does not assert that she informed either of them as to how that affected her in negotiations for the repayment of an outstanding loan.”

Ms Agnello also said an agreement signed on January 7 2021 “supersedes all previous agreements” and that under it, Ms Staveley is liable.

Mr Loveday asked the court to set aside the demand for over £36 million because it “raises a claim which ought to be determined by arbitration” and because Ms Staveley has “substantial ground for denying liability”.

He claimed that the 2016 agreement decided parties would submit their disputes to arbitration and that the same agreement said Ms Staveley is not personally liable and provided for her company PCP Capital Partners to pay.

Mr Loveday called the interest claims and claimed legal costs levelled against Ms Staveley “stratospheric”, and the imposition of personal liability as having come “out of the blue” in 2019.

The hearing before Judge Daniel Schaffer is due to continue on March 19, where Ms Agnello will continue her submissions and invite the court to dismiss Ms Staveley’s application to set aside the statutory demand.

Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka set his sights on the trophy after his penalty shoot-out heroics helped Newcastle into the FA Cup quarter-finals.

The Slovakian, who missed last weekend’s hammering at Arsenal due to illness, saved twice as the Magpies scraped past Championship Blackburn 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Ewood Park on Tuesday.

Dubravka denied Sammie Szmodics, who had cancelled out Anthony Gordon’s opener in normal time, and then touched the final kick of the night from Rovers captain Dom Hyam on to a post.

The cup now appears to be sustaining Newcastle’s season given that their Champions League challenge has faded and Dubravka wants to bring major silverware to the club for the first time since 1969.

“We are delighted to be there,” Dubravka told NUFC TV. “It was difficult match for us with chances on both sides. I’m really happy that we are there now.

“We want to win the trophies, obviously, so we try to go for it. I think this could lift our confidence.

“We needed a reaction after the Arsenal game and I think this was a great example. We need to build on this.

“Obviously there were a couple of moments in the match that we did amazing, but also, on the other side, there were a couple of moments where have to do it better.

“We are still in a learning process, but I think we are in a good place now.”

Newcastle failed to make an impression in the first half and it was Blackburn who dominated, with the impressive Szmodics proving a handful.

The balance changed after the break and Newcastle edged ahead after 71 minutes through Gordon, but Rovers roared back, with Szmodics tucking in after Dilian Markanday’s thunderous effort had been tipped on to the bar.

Both sides had chances to win the game in normal and extra-time before it came down to the penalty shoot-out. The drama continued as Szmodics and Ashley Barnes both had efforts saved, but Dubravka had the final say.

“Obviously you hope that you don’t go to the penalties because it’s a lottery,” Dubravka said. “You never know what’s going to happen there.

“It’s the nerves. You can’t really prepare for this kind of situation. It’s personal behaviour and confidence.”

Defeat was harsh on a Blackburn side whose performance belied their lowly position in the Championship, but manager John Eustace, who is still awaiting his first win after five games in charge, saw the positives.

He said: “You could see the group are gelling as we want. It’s just small steps, but that’s the second time now we’ve come from behind at home.

“The lads have shown me that they’re a good, young, hungry group with some good experience and we’ve just got to keep working hard.”

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe hailed a “big moment” in his side’s season after they scraped past Championship Blackburn on penalties in the FA Cup on Tuesday.

Martin Dubravka saved two spot-kicks as the Magpies prevailed 4-3 in the shoot-out after the game had ended 1-1 after extra time.

With the club having slipped to 10th in the Premier League in what has been a largely underwhelming campaign after last year’s top-four finish, the cup now represents the best chance to maintain their upward trajectory.

Howe said: “Obviously a lot was riding on the outcome so I thought the players handled the moment brilliantly, the goalkeeper and outfield players who took the penalties.

“It was big moment in our season at such a crucial stage.

“The players are desperate to achieve. No-one is underestimating the importance of the FA Cup.”

Howe also praised the heroics of Dubravka after the Slovakia keeper had been ill in the build-up to the game.

He said: “The two penalty saves were huge for us but in open play I thought he really performed well and we needed him to because they had a few big moments.

“He’s been playing feeling slightly ill and he deserves huge credit for doing that. He was nowhere near fit for the weekend against Arsenal and hasn’t been 100 per cent for quite a long period of time.”

Dubravka kept Blackburn at bay with a number of saves before Newcastle broke the deadlock in the 71st minute through Anthony Gordon.

Blackburn responded well and levelled through the impressive Sammie Szmodics and both sides had chances to win it, in normal time and extra time, but it came down to penalties and Dubravka kept out efforts from Szmodics and Dominic Hyam.

Howe said: “I thought we got better as it went on. I don’t think the first half was particularly good, I thought the second half was better and extra time was our best spell of the game by a long way.

“Really we shouldn’t have allowed it to go to penalties with the chances we missed in extra time.”

Blackburn manager John Eustace was pleased with the effort of his side, who played at a level above that of a team 16th in the Championship.

Eustace, who is still awaiting his first win after taking charge earlier this month, said: “When it goes down to penalties it’s a bit of a lottery but I’m very, very proud of the squad that we used and also very proud of the supporters.

“I couldn’t ask for any more effort and desire and togetherness. You can see that everyone’s really fighting and looking after each other and you can see the style of play improving game by game.

“We’re making small steps forward. We’re playing against a top Premier League team, top players, and you could see that we could hurt them in certain areas. On another day we could have had a couple more goals.”

Erling Haaland plundered five goals as holders Manchester City powered into the FA Cup quarter-finals with a 6-2 victory at Luton.

The Norwegian notched a first-half hat-trick at Kenilworth Road to put City 3-0 up, with Kevin De Bruyne providing the assist for each of the goals.

After Luton replied with efforts from Jordan Clark just prior to and just after the interval, Haaland notched his fourth – De Bruyne again registering an assist – and then a fifth, before Mateo Kovacic completed the rout.

Championship leaders Leicester pulled off a 1-0 win at Bournemouth thanks to an extra-time effort from substitute Abdul Fatawu.

Fatawu sent a fine shot past Cherries goalkeeper Mark Travers in the final minute of the first half of the additional period.

Newcastle are also through after getting past Blackburn 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes at Ewood Park.

The contest went to spot-kicks after Sammie Szmodics’ 79th-minute equaliser for the Championship hosts cancelled out Anthony Gordon’s effort eight minutes earlier.

In the shootout Martin Dubravka made saves to deny Szmodics and Dominic Hyam as the Magpies prevailed.

Martin Dubravka saved twice as Newcastle beat Blackburn 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in a compelling FA Cup fifth-round tie at Ewood Park on Tuesday.

The Newcastle goalkeeper denied Sammie Szmodics and Dom Hyam from the spot to secure a nervy victory after the Premier League outfit were taken all the way by the side 16th in the Sky Bet Championship.

Blackburn had enjoyed the upper hand for large spells of the game, but fell behind when Anthony Gordon broke the deadlock after 71 minutes.

Rovers hit back and forced extra time with an equaliser from the impressive Szmodics, but neither side could find a winner before it fell to spot-kicks to determine the outcome.

The game was delayed by 15 minutes to allow all fans to get into the ground and was then slow to get going, the first thing of note being a tennis ball protest by Blackburn fans.

Supporters frustrated at the club’s continued ownership by Indian poultry firm Venky’s, which is now in its 14th year, symbolically lobbed balls onto the field in the 14th minute.

The delay was brief and when the action resumed it was Blackburn who settled quicker.

Szmodics was the main Rovers dangerman and went close when he lashed a shot into the side-netting.

Tyrhys Dolan broke into the box and drew a good save from Dubravka, whose fingertip touch deflected the ball past Szmodics.

Szmodics then tried his luck from long range, finding only the keeper, before beating Fabian Schar and testing Dubravka again.

Newcastle offered little before the break aside from an angled Sean Longstaff strike which did not trouble Aynsley Pears.

Rovers started the second half the brighter and Dolan called Dubravka into action again with a firm strike from the edge of the area.

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe changed the balance just after the hour as he sent on Miguel Almiron, Lewis Miley and Ashley Barnes in a triple change.

The Magpies began to take control and Blackburn had to scramble clear after a Kieran Trippier header was blocked on the line.

Longstaff headed over from a corner and Gordon should have done better than shoot straight at Pears after being played through.

Gordon made amends for that as he made the breakthrough 19 minutes from time, calmly stroking home after a good run and neat cutback by Almiron.

It felt harsh on Rovers but, rather than lie down and accept defeat, the hosts rallied.

Newcastle’s lead lasted eight minutes as Arnor Sigurdsson broke down the right and picked out Dilan Markanday, who thumped a first-time shot against the bar.

Szmodics was the quickest to react to the rebound and coolly guided the bouncing ball into the net.

Rovers almost snatched victory in stoppage time as Yasin Ayari’s deflected shot was saved by Dubravka with his legs.

Newcastle had the first opportunity in extra time, but Pears produced a brilliant double save to deny Gordon and Longstaff at close quarters.

The visitors looked certain to score in the 112th minute when Gordon broke into the box and ball was squared for Bruno Guimares, but Scott Wharton miraculously blocked on the line.

Szmodics had another chance at the other end, but again Dubravka was alert.

It was Dubravka who proved the hero in the shoot-out, although it went to the final kick after Barnes had his effort saved, as he tipped Hyam’s shot onto the post.

Eddie Howe is confident Newcastle’s topsy-turvy season can still end on a high note as he targets FA Cup glory.

The Magpies slipped to ninth place in the Premier League table after a dismal 4-1 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday evening, and have looked some way off the pace they set last season, when they roared to a top-four finish.

But as they head into Tuesday night’s FA Cup fifth-round trip to Sky Bet Championship Blackburn, head coach Howe is convinced a campaign which has featured a famous Champions League victory over Paris St Germain, but also an untimely exit from Europe, could still have a happy ending.

He said: “We are still in the throes of deciding where this season ends up. Nothing is decided for or against us.

“I definitely want to squash that feeling that we are feeling sorry for ourselves because that has negative connotations. We need the players excited and ambitious, thinking brightly about the future.

“This season can still be very special for us, but we have to make it happen.”

Howe has been able to plead mitigating circumstances for much of what has happened so far this season with injuries having eaten significantly into his resources, but he was making no excuses for the horror show at the Emirates Stadium.

Instead, he refocused on progression in the FA Cup and the task of securing a European berth for the second successive season, even if the Europa League or Europa Conference League now look more realistic options.

He said: “Of course, qualifying for the Champions League was unbelievable last year. But if you can’t make that again, then we have to look for the next best alternative.

“That’s what we’re trying to do, and for me, they’re (the Europa League and Conference League) realistic objectives and we’ll give everything we can to achieve it.”

It is perhaps no coincidence that the Magpies’ difficulties have intensified since the loss of powerhouse midfielder Joelinton. He suffered a thigh tendon injury in the FA Cup third-round victory at Sunderland which is likely to sideline him for much of the remainder of the campaign.

Howe said: “We’ve missed Joe’s qualities, especially physically, his robustness, his abilities in duels, set-plays for and against.

“We’re very lucky to have a midfielder that’s as big as he is and as competitive as he is and whenever you lose those qualities, you notice when they’re not there.

“He’s a very unusual midfielder, really, a prototype. You don’t get many like him and it’s certainly been missed, what he can bring.”

The 27-year-old Brazilian has played a key role in the club’s resurgence since emerging from a miserable start to his career on Tyneside, and his future remains uncertain with a contract wrangle – his current deal expires next year – unresolved.

Howe said: “That’s always been in my mind as an absolute priority, to try to get him to stay at the club long-term. I see that as hugely important.”

Mikel Arteta insists there is no secret to Arsenal’s recent success as he praised his side following victory over Newcastle.

The Gunners eased to a 4-1 win at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday night to move two points off the top of the Premier League summit.

A Sven Botman own goal set them on their way before goals from Kai Havertz, Bukayo Saka and Jakub Kiwior rounded off another fine display from Arteta’s men, although the returning Joe Willock’s late header ruined another clean sheet.

Arsenal may have laboured to a narrow 1-0 defeat in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie in Porto on Wednesday – but their domestic form has been imperious.

Asked what has clicked in a run that included 6-0 and 5-0 away wins at West Ham and Burnley, respectively, before beating Newcastle, Arteta said: “We’re in a good moment. Players are performing individually, it is not any secret.

“Things are flowing. We’re scoring goals in different ways and especially we want more. When we score one, we want two, or three, or four. I love that mentality from the team.

“We train every day the best possible way and look after ourselves. First of all though, belief. Belief in yourself that you can improve and always get better. Also getting players back.

“The more players we have back, the more competition there will be in the team, the more alternatives to impact the game. Especially we have to make sure we believe we can do it.”

Jorginho returned to the Arsenal side for the game against the Magpies and put in a man-of-the-match display.

The Italy midfielder has impressed in most outings this season, but was only on the bench in Portugal.

“He’s a top player,” added Arteta. “Especially when opponents have certain behaviours and set-ups, the way I imagine the game, he was going to have a big impact.

“After, you have to do it at this level. When he’s not playing consistently, credit to him because he was magnificent again.”

Newcastle were not at the races and have now shipped 23 goals in their past eight league games.

“It is a concern,” manager Eddie Howe conceded when asked about the recent defensive record.

“Of course, we are working on things behind the scenes, but that probably was not evident in today’s performance.

“It is a combination of things, we didn’t do well from corners, knew how good they are in those situations and the third goal as well.

“We were the dominant team and we’d have been right back in the game if we’d got that goal, so difficult moments defensively.

“I don’t think we truly got going in the first half, they put us under pressure, I thought that would be just the start of the game, but at no stage did we really come out of that moment.

“We did not compete well enough which is not like us. It is something to learn from.”

Arsenal doled out another devastating Premier League defeat as they cruised past Newcastle to move two points off the top of the table.

Having thrashed West Ham and Burnley away from home, the Gunners returned to the Emirates Stadium where they easily dispatched of Eddie Howe’s side, winning 4-1 in Saturday’s late kick-off.

A Sven Botman own goal set them on their way before goals from Kai Havertz, Bukayo Saka and Jakub Kiwior rounded off another fine display from Mikel Arteta’s men, although the returning Joe Willock’s late header ruined another clean sheet.

The win, coming on the back of a galling late loss in their Champions League last-16 clash with Porto on Wednesday, moves them to within two points of leaders Liverpool and just a point shy of Manchester City in second place.

Their recent run of free-scoring performances, winning their last three games at an aggregate of 15-1, also means Arsenal boast the best goal difference in the division.

After a light show and pre-match tifo, Arsenal set the pace from the off with Declan Rice, playing in a higher role in midfield with Jorginho restored to the side, stinging the palms of Loris Karius.

They would hit the front through another set-piece, but this time in fortuitous circumstances as Karius made a great save from Gabriel Magalhaes’ powerful header, only for Tino Livramento to turn the ball home off the prone Botman in his attempts to clear off the line.

The lead was doubled soon afterwards, this time from a free-flowing move as Jorginho – in a man-of-the-match display – picked out an inch-perfect pass to Gabriel Martinelli, who crossed for Havertz to turn home unmarked from six yards out.

Arsenal should have struck again moments later as Martin Odegaard pressed and won the ball off Fabian Schar inside the Newcastle box, only for his pass into Havertz to be cleared behind for a corner.

Still Arsenal pressed and Newcastle strained, Saka coming close only for Karius to make another smart stop as the hosts went in comfortably ahead at the break.

Havertz should have grabbed his second of the night having been slipped in by Martinelli early in the second half, but he rolled his finish wide of the post.

Newcastle had failed to have a shot on target in the first half of a Premier League game for the first time in nearly a decade.

Anthony Gordon finally tested David Raya in the 49th minute before Alekander Isak fired just over the bar on another rare foray forward for the visitors.

Any hopes of a rousing comeback were soon shattered, however, as Arsenal’s third goal duly came just after the hour.

Saka was played in on the right and hit a curling shot that somehow evaded two attempts at clearances from the Newcastle defence to nestle into the corner of the net.

Things got even better for Arsenal as Kiwior’s header from a Rice corner deflected in off the unfortunate Lewis Miley.

Both sides made a host of changes but it was Newcastle who got on the scoresheet with five minutes remaining, former Arsenal youngster Willock brilliantly heading home a Dan Burn cross.

Emile Smith Rowe almost added a fifth for Arsenal late on, but Burn was in the right place to clear off the line with Karius beaten.

It was of little consequence, however, as the home side eased through the remainder of stoppage time to seal an impressive victory.

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe has insisted Manchester United will not get sporting director Dan Ashworth on the cheap.

Ashworth was placed on garden leave earlier this week after telling the club he wanted to leave St James’ Park after just 20 months to take up a similar role at Old Trafford.

New Manchester United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe has made Ashworth’s recruitment a priority and has railed against suggestions that his release could cost £20million, describing the prospect of the 52-year-old facing up to 18 months in limbo under the terms of his contract with the Magpies as “completely stupid”.

Asked how important it was that the hierarchy on Tyneside got the best possible deal, head Howe coach Howe said: “In these situations, it’s about Newcastle, from our perspective.

“But that is for other people to make those decisions, I’m not involved in that in any way, shape or form. I’m preparing the team to play Arsenal.”

Ashworth’s impending departure has come as a huge blow to the Magpies’ ownership group, which lured him from Brighton to oversee its plans for a successful long-term future.

After the renowned administrator informed the club of his wish to leave, Howe, who had formed a close working relationship with the former Football Association technical director, voiced his fears over the intelligence he could take with him.

Asked if he had spoken to Ashworth this week, he said, “No” before adding, “No, that’s a lie. I have, yes”.

Although he declined to reveal what was said, Howe insisted they had parted on good terms.

Newcastle launched the search for a replacement as they confirmed Ashworth’s decision and Howe, who revealed he will have an input but not the final say, is hoping the successful candidate will prove a long-term appointment.

He said: “Ideally in that role, you are in the position for a long period of time. It’s a bit like being an academy manager, you’re not going to see the end result of your work for many years because you’re putting things in place.

“That’s the same as a sporting director. It’s a longer term role, ideally.”

In the meantime, Howe’s attention is firmly on Saturday’s trip to the Emirates Stadium and the prospect of trying to keep the Gunners and in particular in-form England international Bukayo Saka, in check.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta left St James’ furious after a 1-0 defeat on November 4 with Anthony Gordon’s winning goal surviving three different VAR checks, although his Magpies’ counterpart does not believe there is any bad blood between the clubs.

Howe said: “Mikel is a very passionate guy, he will defend his team. I am the same, I will defend my team. I like to think there is a lot of mutual respect between us both.”

Former Gunners midfielder Joe Willock could be included in the squad for the first time since suffering an Achilles injury in November, while striker Alexander Isak has a chance of returning after a three-game absence with a groin problem.

Newcastle head coach Becky Langley has challenged her side to win promotion to the Women’s Championship to pave the way for other aspiring clubs to join them in turning professional.

The Magpies went full-time last summer – 12 months after head coach Langley had done the same – to become the first tier-three outfit to make the move in England.

They currently sit at the top of the FA Women’s National League Northern Premier Division, nine points clear of Nottingham Forest, who have a game in hand, and 14 better off than Burnley, who have played three fewer, as they chase promotion to the Championship and ultimately the Women’s Super League.

Langley told the PA news agency: “If we let a Burnley or a Forest, who are on a hybrid part-time model, win the league, then other clubs will go, ‘Well actually, you don’t need to go full-time, you can still do it part-time’, so there’s a duty of care for players to actually get them to be full-time players.

“We’ve got to be doing that on the pitch and showing that with results so the likes of a Wolves, a Burnley, a Forest, a Huddersfield, teams who have got good men’s sides, will start investing in the women’s game.”

The trajectory taken by Langley’s team since Amanda Staveley’s consortium assumed control at St James’ Park has been rapidly upwards.

On the night they were handed the keys to the club, Staveley referenced the women’s team as a major focus and an arm of Newcastle which had previously operated under the auspices of its charitable foundation was taken in-house during the summer of 2022.

Significant investment since has helped to fuel successive promotion drives, the latest of which appears to be firmly on course after a recruitment mission which, among others, brought Jamaica international striker Paige Bailey-Gayle to the club from Championship Crystal Palace in January.

Langley said: “Amanda has been absolutely phenomenal, since arriving, for the women’s team, showing her support – and it’s been consistent support.

“They just completely get it and they want the best for the women’s team as well as the men’s and the Academy.”

Much of the financial power behind Staveley’s consortium comes from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which holds an 80 per cent stake in the club, and the human rights of women and the LGBTQ+ community in the Gulf state have been a particular focus for critics since the takeover.

Langley, who has completed her UEFA B and A Licence courses and hopes to join an exclusive band of women in this country who have been invited to study for the Pro Licence, travelled to the Middle East late last year to work with female coaches.

The 28-year-old said: “To see actually so many girls participating in the sessions was fantastic – the quality was really good – and then actually empowering other female coaches out in Saudi was really important as well.

“Newcastle United and the power of having female role models at Newcastle United Women going out and empowering girls and women out in Saudi, I think is only a positive.”

It is not so long since sport and exercise science graduate Langley, then working full-time at Northumbria University, had to coach a squad including police officers and teachers after they had all done a day’s work.

Now fully professional, Langley and her Newcastle side are focusing on Sunday’s FA WNL Cup semi-final clash with Portsmouth at St James’, which is expected to be attended by a crowd in excess of 25,000, and beyond that, securing promotion.

Asked how big the club could be, Langley said: “It’s all going to take time, it’s not going to happen overnight. We can’t jump any steps. But I think it can be one of the best teams in the WSL.”

Newcastle have confirmed sporting director Dan Ashworth has been placed on leave as Manchester United prepare to formalise their efforts to take him to Old Trafford.

The 52-year-old has stepped away from his duties at St James’ Park having told the ownership group that he wants to accept the Red Devils’ overtures.

Chief executive Darren Eales said: “We are naturally disappointed that Dan has chosen to leave, however our exciting journey doesn’t stop and the process to recruit a new sporting director will begin immediately.

“We thank Dan for his efforts at Newcastle United and we wish him and his family well for the future.”

New Manchester United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe has identified the former Football Association technical director as the man he wants to lead an overhaul and now faces the prospect of striking a deal to prise him from the Magpies.

The PA news agency understands there has been no formal contact between the clubs as yet but there is little doubt that both will want the matter resolved swiftly to their satisfaction after a week of speculation.

Magpies head coach Eddie Howe has already expressed his concern over the potential for Ashworth to take his inside knowledge with him and that fear is likely to have a major say in Newcastle’s willingness to cut short a stipulated period of inactivity before he can take up a role with a competitor.

In the circumstances, Manchester United may have to bite the bullet on a significant compensation package if they want to get their man in time for an important summer transfer window.

Ashworth was drafted in by Newcastle’s Saudi-backed owners in June 2022 after they paid Brighton substantial compensation to secure his services.

They had identified him as the man they wanted to knit together the various arms of the club’s football operations and not just to oversee its transfer dealings.

He was at the helm as the Magpies surged to a top-four Premier League finish and earned a return to Champions League football after an absence of two decades.

Along the way, they also reached the Carabao Cup final, where they were beaten 2-0 by Erik ten Hag’s men at Wembley.

Howe has enjoyed a close relationship with Ashworth, who was in the stands at St James’ Park for Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Bournemouth, but admitted after the game he had not spoken to his sporting director since voicing his fears about the confidential information he has about the club’s future planning.

Asked on Friday if Ashworth knew the details of Newcastle’s summer recruitment mission, he said: “Yes, and that’s why I say he’s in a position of power, with a lot of intelligence and information.”

Newcastle have not commented on the situation, but are sure to drive a hard bargain as they attempt to protect themselves while at the same time looking for the right administrator to replace a key member of the hierarchy.

Newcastle have placed sporting director Dan Ashworth on garden leave as Manchester United prepare to formalise their efforts to take him to Old Trafford.

The PA news agency understands the 52-year-old has stepped away from his duties at St James’ Park having told the ownership group that he wants to accept the Red Devils’ overtures.

New Manchester United co-owner Jim Ratcliffe has identified the former Football Association technical director as the man he wants to lead an overhaul and now faces the prospect of striking a deal to prise him from the Magpies’ grasp.

It is understood there has been no formal contact between the clubs as yet but there is little doubt that both will want the matter resolved swiftly to their satisfaction after a week of speculation.

Magpies head coach Eddie Howe has already expressed his concern over the potential for Ashworth to take his inside knowledge with him and that fear is likely to have a major say in Newcastle’s willingness to cut short a stipulated period of inactivity before he can take up a role with a competitor.

In the circumstances, Manchester United may have to bite the bullet on a significant compensation package if they want to get their man in time for an important summer transfer window.

Ashworth was drafted in by Newcastle’s Saudi-backed owners in June 2022 after they paid Brighton substantial compensation to secure his services.

They had identified him as the man they wanted to knit together the various arms of the club’s football operations and not just to oversee its transfer dealings.

He was at the helm as the Magpies surged to a top-four Premier League finish and earned a return to Champions League football after an absence of two decades.

Along the way, they also reached the Carabao Cup final, where they were beaten 2-0 by Erik ten Hag’s men at Wembley.

Howe has enjoyed a close relationship with Ashworth, who was in the stands at St James’ Saturday’s for 2-2 draw with Bournemouth, but admitted after the game he had not spoken to him since voicing his fears about the confidential information he has about the club’s future planning.

Asked on Friday if the sporting director knew the details of Newcastle’s summer recruitment mission, he said: “Yes, and that’s why I say he’s in a position of power, with a lot of intelligence and information.”

Newcastle have not commented on the situation, but are sure to drive a hard bargain as they attempt to protect themselves while at the same time looking for a talented administrator to replace a key member of the hierarchy.

Newcastle have placed sporting director Dan Ashworth on gardening leave as Manchester United prepare to formalise their efforts to take him to Old Trafford.

The PA news agency understands the 52-year-old has stepped away from his duties at St James’ Park having told the ownership group that he wants to accept the Red Devils’ overtures.

New Manchester United co-owner Jim Ratcliffe has identified the former Football Association technical director as the man he wants to lead an overhaul and now faces the prospect of striking a deal to prise him from the Magpies’ grasp.

It is understood there has been no formal contact between the clubs as yet but there is little doubt that both will want the matter resolved swiftly to their satisfaction after a week of speculation.

Magpies head coach Eddie Howe has already expressed his concern over the potential for Ashworth to take his inside knowledge with him and that fear is likely to have a major say in Newcastle’s willingness to cut short a stipulated period of inactivity before he can take up a role with a competitor.

In the circumstances, Manchester United may have to bite the bullet on a significant compensation package if they want to get their man in time for an important summer transfer window.

Eddie Howe has challenged his players to ride out the wave of chaos which has engulfed the club as Newcastle attempt to rediscover their best form.

The Magpies sailed serenely through last season as they gatecrashed the Premier League’s top four to secure a first Champions League adventure for two decades.

This time around, Howe’s expensively-assembled squad is riven by injury and suspension and the control they exerted for much of the last campaign has deserted them.

Speaking after Saturday’s 2-2 Premier League draw with Bournemouth, in which they trailed twice, Howe said: “I’m well aware and I think people who watch us regularly are aware, that we’re not at full power at the moment, we’re not at our fluent best but I think the reasons for that are obvious.

“We are a bit disjointed. We had players playing today who maybe wouldn’t be in their best positions given a free hand. But everyone is giving as much as they can to get consistent results.

“We have to look at the positives: it’s another game unbeaten for us; we’re getting points where we went through a spell when we weren’t.

“That was a big late goal for us. It just keeps that momentum. Of course we’re looking for three points in every home game, so we’re disappointed with certain aspects as well.”

Newcastle went into the game without a recognised striker after Callum Wilson joined Alexander Isak on the sidelines alongside key midfielders Joelinton and Sandro Tonali and first-choice goalkeeper Nick Pope.

The balance of the team has been affected significantly by those and other absences – they have scored 17 goals in their last seven league games but conceded 19, four of them against Luton in their last game at St James’ Park a fortnight ago when they had to come back from 4-2 down to claim a point.

This time around, they trailed to Dominic Solanke’s opener after he pounced upon a slip by keeper Martin Dubravka and then Antoine Semenyo’s sweet strike.

Anthony Gordon had cancelled out Solanke’s 16th goal of the season from the spot and substitute Matt Ritchie levelled at the death.

Howe said: “We never know when we’re beaten. At 2-1 today, it would have been easy to not respond – just as it would have been at 4-2 down against Luton. That’s down to the character of the players.”

Bournemouth boss Andoni Iraola left Tyneside proud of a creditable performance, but fuming at the outcome.

He said: “Today for me, it’s difficult to feel happy. I’m really happy with the performance. I think we deserved the three points.

“We came to a very difficult stadium with tough opposition and I think we did really well. We played very brave with high energy, we had the better chances, we were in front twice and to end with just one point, it’s not what we deserved today.”

Relieved Newcastle boss Eddie Howe hailed “inspirational” Matt Ritchie after seeing him come off the bench to snatch a Premier League draw with former club Bournemouth.

The 34-year-old midfielder struck seconds after his stoppage-time introduction – his first goal since July 2022 – to hand the Magpies a 2-2 draw as they twice came from behind to deny the Cherries.

Head coach Howe said: “He’s an inspirational character behind the scenes. He’s someone who in training every day, he drives standards.

“He’s very vocal, very enthusiastic. Even in the changing room before the game, he’s the one driving the group – and that’s someone who hasn’t played as much as he’d like, but he’s put the team ahead of his own needs.

“When you see someone like that, you just hope they will get their reward. I’ve tried to reward him with my value being as high as it could be and desperately wanting to keep him here last year because of those standards he drives, and because he’s a role model.

“He gives his experience to players in ways that even I don’t know. For him to get that moment and score that goal, it’s huge for us and I’m delighted for him.”

Ritchie’s intervention could hardly have been better-timed on an eventful afternoon at St James’ Park.

After a first half during which goalkeeper Martin Dubravka had keep the hosts in the game, he inadvertently handed Bournemouth a 51st-minute lead when he slipped after controlling Sven Botman’s back-pass and Dominic Solanke took full advantage.

Anthony Gordon levelled from the penalty spot after a lengthy VAR check for Adam Smith’s tug on Fabian Schar’s shirt, a decision which infuriated Bournemouth boss Andoni Iraola.

Iraola said: “For me it’s very difficult to accept the result. I cannot accept the first goal they scored, the penalty decision. He’s in an offside position.

“I’ve been talking to the referees after the game. I’m not smart enough to understand their explanations. If only we are talking about the foul – it’s a very soft foul for a set-piece because on set-pieces and corners, everyone grabs, goes to the floor and they are not calling anything all season, but they called a foul.

“We have to accept it. We will complain, but we have to accept it. But he was in an offside position, the ball goes exactly where he is, my player grabs the shirt because otherwise he is going to head the ball, obviously affects the play, and they spend 10 minutes (with) five, six referees watching the play.

“Also the VAR doesn’t show the referee the wide camera so he can take the decision of the offside position. For me, it’s very difficult to accept, very, very, very difficult to accept, because I think we deserve a little bit of respect.

“I know we are Bournemouth, we are a small club, but we deserve much more respect than this.”

Antoine Semenyo looked to have won it with a sweet 69th-minute strike, but Ritchie had different ideas.

Howe said: “The way the game had gone and the goals we conceded were tough blows for us. Real credit to the group for raising themselves. It’s not the three (points) we wanted, but I’m glad we didn’t lose.”

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