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Eddie Howe’s been having a chat. The Press Association have kindly written it up:

The Newcastle head coach Eddie Howe has defended the club’s decision to return to Saudi Arabia for a warm-weather training camp. The Magpies, who are 80% owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, confirmed on Friday morning that they will go to Riyadh between 4-10 December after making a similar trip to Jeddah in January.

Asked about the criticism that trip might spark, Howe said: “We’ve made a football decision. We’ve looked at the World Cup break, what’s the best thing for the team. The best thing for the team, I believe, is to take the team away like you would in pre-season, away from distractions, a chance to really train the group, enhance the team spirit with hopefully some good weather, so that’s what we’ve done. We’ve made it from a purely footballing backdrop.”

Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe: Off on a sunshine break in December. Photograph: Visionhaus/Getty ImagesHowe’s side will play a friendly against Pro League champions Al-Hilal on December 8 during a trip he hopes will yield similar results to their last visit, after which they won five of their next six matches as they embarked upon a nine-game unbeaten run.

He said: “When you look back to last year, our decision to go there and the benefit it had for the team and the results on our return were really good, so we got a few positive connotations from that. Going back to our trip last year, the weather was very good, the facilities were first class, we were able to spend some quality time together to bond the group and really focus our energies on our battle to stay in the division. The team spirit off the back of that trip was very, very good. Obviously we have that positive experience to fall back on and it’s helped with our decision this time.”

Last night’s match reports here, for anyone that missed anything:

If you have any thoughts on Gerrard’s dismissal by Villa – or anything else – you can get in touch with me by email, Twitter, or comment BTL. Get involved.

It being Friday morning, we’ve got 10 things to look out for in the Premier League this weekend. Get a load of these:

In the past few minutes, Villa have confirmed that Gerrard’s backroom team will also be moving on:

Aston Villa can confirm Gary McAllister, Neil Critchley, Tom Culshaw, Jordan Milsom and Scott Mason have all left the club following the departure of Head Coach Steven Gerrard.

— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) October 21, 2022 And also: “First-team coach Aaron Danks will take charge of the team for Sunday’s Premier League match against Brentford at Villa Park and will be supported by additional Bodymoor Heath technical and coaching staff.”

Read the full statement here.

Preamble“Steven Gerrard was fired 90 minutes after Aston Villa fell to an embarrassing 3-0 defeat by Fulham at Craven Cottage last night.”

That’s the headline. But there is much more to come – both on the identity of Aston Villa’s new manager, and the conveyor belt of football fixtures being shoe-horned in before World Cup commences in a few weeks’ time.

Team news, previews and top-drawer banter will be coming up throughout the day. But first, here’s Jacob Steinberg’s story on Steven Gerrard’s sacking:

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