Thai Prime Minister will continue to support relegated Newcastle

BANGKOK: Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva says he will continue to support English club Newcastle, despite Alan Shearer’s side being relegated from the Premier League for the first time when they lost the final game of the season.

Newcastle needed to avoid defeat on Sunday to stave off relegation from the top flight of English football. Instead, Damien Duff deflected a shot past stranded goalkeeper Steve Harper for an own goal in a 1-0 loss to Aston Villa.

Abhisit, who wore a tie bearing a Newcastle logo on it yesterday, said he watched the match and was not shocked by the result considering Newcastle had so many injuries. He had planned to call the manager Shearer if the team won, but decided not to after the loss.

“I will continue to support the team and I believe they will make it back,” Abhisit said. “I still have faith in Newcastle.”

Unlike his staid predecessors, the Oxford-educated Abhisit has cultivated an image as polished, trendy and a lover of everything English. Along with being a diehard fan of Newcastle, he openly talks about his love for bands like Oasis and the Arctic Monkeys’ side project The Last Shadow Puppets.

He has a page and tens of thousands of friends on the Internet social networking site hi5. But critics have seized on Abhisit’s Western tastes as an indication that he is out of touch with ordinary Thai people, particularly the country’s rural majority.

Abhisit, who became prime minister in December, counts on support from Bangkok’s middle class as well as the military generals who ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra – who once owned the Manchester City club – in a bloodless coup in 2006, and foreign businessmen who see him as a stabilizing, investor friendly force. — AP

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