Trippier declares he is ‘here to fight’ as Newcastle flex financial muscles

Kieran Trippier could have stayed at Atlético Madrid and played in the last 16 of this season’s Champions League but the England right-back realised he was more excited about the prospect of helping Newcastle United avoid relegation.

While acknowledging that joining a team with one win all season is a “risk”, Trippier found himself powerless to resist Eddie Howe’s invitation to spearhead his Tyneside revolution.

Shortly after becoming the first established England international to arrive at St James’ Park since Michael Owen in 2005, the 31-year-old took a seat at his new club’s training ground on Friday and set about explaining the reasons why. “I’m the type of player that loves challenges and Newcastle is certainly a challenge which excites me,” Trippier said. “I’m still ambitious, I still want to get in the England team. I know I’m up against Reece James, Kyle Walker and Trent [Alexander-Arnold] but I feel I’m in very good shape. I can handle the pressure. And I love taking chances.”

It seems Trippier will need to shoulder a considerable amount of responsibility in the north-east, where Howe hopes a full-back he signed for Burnley a decade ago will inspire some of the world’s leading players to follow in his footsteps and join a club set to be transformed by their new Saudi Arabian-led owners.

“Kieran’s arrival is a sign this club has huge pull and I’m not talking financially,” said Newcastle’s manager.

“Kieran hasn’t come here for financial reasons, he’s come for this club and the challenge and longer-term vision. Hopefully other players around the world will share the same dream and vision.”

Trippier’s relationship with Howe seems key to the arrival of a player who helped Atlético win La Liga last season. “It’s very important,” said the former Tottenham player. “He’s a great manager and I’ve kept in touch with him ever since I left Burnley. He’s a big reason why I came here. I’m here to fight and help him as much as I can.”

The chance to live in northern England ticked another box. “I made it clear a few months back that I’d love to return to the Premier League,” said Trippier. “Living in the north is important for my family – but Newcastle’s also an exciting long-term project. The owners want to make this club very successful; the direction they want to take it in is fantastic. It’s a very exciting time for supporters and players here.”

Many fans remain concerned about Saudi Arabia’s less than exemplary human rights record but Trippier straight-batted questions about the Kingdom. “I’m just focusing on football,” he said. “It’s not for me to discuss.”

He gives short shrift to those who say the move is all about hard cash. “I know why I’m here: I came for the project and everything about it,” said Trippier. “If people say it’s about money they’re entitled to their opinions but I know the reasons why and that’s not one of them.”

In a purely football context there appears a widespread view he has taken a gamble and he is becoming accustomed to people telling him he has made a “brave” decision.

“It’s exactly the same question I got asked before I went to Madrid,” said a player whose initial £12m fee could eventually rise to £15m. “People were saying: ‘It’s a risk, he shouldn’t make that move.’ But I took that risk. I always believed in myself, that I can play anywhere in any team, in any country. I’m the type of player who is brave, who loves to take chances. It’s my mentality. I certainly took on a challenge in Spain and it’s the same here. I’m not afraid to fight.”

Howe, who visited Trippier in Madrid last year, is quietly confident a new recruit he regards as one of the game’s finest crossers can help propel his side away from 19th position and up the Premier League ladder. “Kieran has leadership qualities on and off the pitch and a winning mentality,” he said. “He’ll help us succeed. He’s a very technical player with a level of calmness on the ball. He’ll attack very well but he’s a top defender too.”

Trippier hopes to receive clearance to start Saturday’s third-round FA Cup tie at home to Cambridge, and Howe aims to have recruited a centre-half and striker before Watford’s league visit next Saturday. The latter purchase would replace the injured Callum Wilson, whose calf problem is still being diagnosed and could sideline him for either weeks or the remainder of the season.

Although Newcastle have made a renewed bid for Lille’s Sven Botman, the Ligue 1 club rejected it and remain reluctant to sell the 21-year-old Netherlands defender.