Dan Ashworth on Newcastle United's summer recruitment with £37m double deal approved
Ashworth officially started working at Newcastle this week after an agreement was reached with his former club Brighton & Hove Albion to release him from his notice period early.
The 51-year-old has spent his first few days at the club speaking to various individuals from different departments. He has also quickly become hands on with the club’s transfer strategy this summer with the transfer window set to open on Friday, June 10.
Shortly after Ashworth met with Newcastle’s loan coordinator Shola Ameobi on Tuesday, the club confirmed Isaac Hayden’s season-long loan to Norwich City. The Canaries also have an obligation to buy the 27-year-old midfielder, who has likely played his last game for The Magpies.
Further loan departures are also expected over the summer with the club willing to listen to offers for the likes of Dwight Gayle, Jeff Hendrick and Elliot Anderson.
In terms of incomings, Ashworth has already had some involvement in the imminent arrival of Matt Targett from Aston Villa for £12million as well as the proposed £25million signing of Hugo Ekitike from Reims.
After a slow few weeks following the end of the 2021-22 season, Ashworth’s arrival has most certainly got the ball back rolling again.
“The most important thing for me is to understand who’s in place, the culture, where everybody fits, what’s going really well, what’s going on where maybe we have a few gaps and try and bring that together,” Ashworth said.
“We’re about to start a transfer window, so there will be a lot of things on the to-do list with players in and out – things Eddie will want to do for the first-team squad.
“Within time, it’s about understanding the medical department, the academy, loans, the women’s team and other things across the remit of the sporting director.
“The two most important things for me at the moment are to try and understand and get to know all the staff, how the club functions and the culture here and then short-term, help drive the transfer window for the next three months.”
With Eddie Howe currently enjoying some well-earned time off having led Newcastle to an 11th placed finish in the Premier League, Ashworth has had to liaise with the Magpies head coach remotely.
But that hasn’t stopped Newcastle making progress in the transfer market with deals for Targett and Ekitike already given the green light while the club continues to pursue Lille defender Sven Botman amid interest from AC Milan.
Targett is set to be the first name through the door ahead of a busy summer with the Magpies looking to build on the momentum created during the second half of the 2021-22 season.
“I haven't experienced it because I haven't been here but from afar you can certainly see there is momentum,” Ashworth added.
"The players signed in January seem to have given the club some impetus and the results since January have been fantastic.
"Eddie and his staff have done a wonderful job and there seems to be a real sense of togetherness, from afar, about how the first team has captured the supporters' and the public's imagination, appetite and excitement for hopefully further seasons.”
Despite leaving his role as Brighton’s technical director at the start of 2022, Ashworth has had to wait until June to take up his new position at Newcastle following a period of gardening leave.
And his first impressions of the club have not disappointed.
“Everyone has been really welcoming, it's been brilliant, great first impressions and just walking around the stadium for example, the size of the place and the size of the club really hits home, really excited and delighted to be here,” he told NUFC TV.
“I've been in football for a long time and I've obviously come here with my opposition hat on at West Bromwich Albion and at Brighton.
"Every time you come here you can't help but notice the passion, the enthusiasm of the supporters, the atmosphere within the ground and it's just a monster of a football club.
"It's a fantastic place to come and work with some wonderful people. I suppose it was really the atmosphere and the passion, and from the away supporters as well whenever Newcastle had come to Brighton or West Bromwich Albion and just the noise and their enthusiasm for the game is just incredible.
“[St James’s Park] is one of my favourite places to come."
Although recruitment strategy will form a key part of Ashworth’s role at Newcastle – particularly over the summer – it will not be his sole focus.
He will also be looking at Newcastle’s overarching sporting strategy, academy, women’s team and football development as he works closely with the likes of Howe, academy manager Steve Harper and head of recruitment Steve Nickson.
And Ashworth has hinted that his work creating a cohesive environment at Newcastle could lead to a more balanced and pragmatic approach to recruitment as a whole.
“Sometimes there are things you miss if you don't join the departments up,” he continued.
"For example, from a player recruitment point of view, we may be after position X or Y but it might just happen that we have a player out on loan who is doing well or a player for the under-23s.
"If you can have somebody who is looking at all of the things together to say 'we might have missed one there,' there might be a young player who could be able to fulfil the role we're looking for without having to automatically go out and buy a player.”
The coming days will see Ashworth meet Harper to assess the club’s academy structure before looking ahead to an important summer transfer window.