NEWCASTLE chief executive Darren Eales reckons Newcastle will be ready to inflict some pain in this year’s Champions League group of death.
The St James’ Park boss appeared to be delighted that Eddie Howe’s side have ended up against Paris St Germain, Dortmund and Milan on the club’s return to the competition after 21 years.
And Eales, here in Monaco, could not resist a cheeky dig at North East rivals Sunderland.
He said: “Wow, what a group. It’s a super group of death, three great teams – PSG, Dortmund, the yellow wall, and AC Milan.
“In 2003 we had almost 10,000 Geordies over in the wonderful city of Milan – and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Mackem in Milan – so it’s going to be exciting.”
Fans instantly fell in love with Eales following his comments, with one person tweeting: “Legend status already.”
Another added: “GIVE DARREN EALES THE KEYS TO THE CITY IMMEDIATELY.”
While a third wrote: “Love that man!”
Eales added: “PSG are footballing royalty and Dortmund are a great football club. The noise at St James’ Park for that first game is going to be something special. We had a great season last season and we’re not here to make up the numbers.
“We’ve got six great games ahead of us and we’re really going to give it our all. We want our fans to dream and have a draw and a group we can get excited about.
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“We can’t wait to get those clubs at St James’ Park with the Champions League music – it’s going to be pretty amazing.”
But what a brilliant few games they will be for Newcastle supporters. The fans will be waiting for the release of the fixtures in the next few days so they can scramble for flights.
The glamour draw includes an immediate reunion with Milan for Newcastle midfielder Sandro Tonali after his £55m summer switch.
The match against PSG will also be a Saudi Arabia versus Qatar derby in terms of both clubs’ ownership.
Newcastle sporting director Dan Ashworth admitted that Toon boss Howe had yet to reply to his text after the draw.
Ashworth said: “He will have been watching the draw and I am sure we will speak later. It’s been a 20-year wait to play against the top teams in Europe and we certainly got that in our pot, didn’t we?
“It’s very exciting, brilliant for the fans, brilliant for the staff, it’s what the Champions League is all about.
“It’s a brilliant moment for the city to play those three teams. An evening in St. James’s Park under the lights in Newcastle is going to be an incredible experience.”
Ashworth was bullish over Newcastle’s chance of qualifying. He said: “We’ve got some experience in the side as well and we’ll be counting on that to help drive us through and get to the knockout stages.”
Shay Given, who was part of the last Newcastle side to grace the Champions League 21 years ago, reckons Dortmund, Milan and PSG are in for a bumpy ride.
In 1997, Louis van Gaal’s Barcelona were beaten 3-2 at a fever pitch St James’ thanks to Faustino Asprilla’s hat-trick.
Given said: “That’s my standout game. I was only 21, it was my first Champions League game.
“The atmosphere was absolutely mental that night. Asprilla got the hat-trick and Keith Gillespie was man of the match.
“It was crazy, they had superstars like Luis Figo and Rivaldo coming to St James’ Park but we beat them. It’s just amazing to think Newcastle are back after so long. The club has strengthened the squad this summer and is in a great place.”
Elsewhere, Harry Kane’s return to England with Bayern Munich to face Manchester United will be fascinating. It seems written in the stars he will score a few at Old Trafford. Equally, you would expect United to progress from Group A.
But without doubt the happiest English club were reigning champions Manchester City.
They have been given a quick rematch with German side Leipzig who they thrashed 7-0 in the second leg of their last 16 clash last season for an 8-1 aggregate win. They will also play Swiss side Young Boys and Red Star Belgrade.
City director of football Txiki Begiristain said: “It is a tough match again against Leipzig. It will still be a tough group.
“Any season we have to have new players, we have to refresh the squad and blend in the players and now need to compete. We want to make them better as well. We are happy.”