Elliott Dickman opens up on decision to swap Sunderland for Newcastle United

Newcastle United’s new under-23s lead coach Elliott Dickman has opened up on his decision to swap Wearside for Tyneside – citing Steve Harper and an exciting opportunity as the overriding factors.

There was an element of surprise when Dickman was appointed as the young Magpies’ new boss given his long association with bitter rivals Sunderland.

Dickman spent 26 years at the Stadium of Light as a youth player and coach, however leaves that all behind to join a new era with United.

When asked what attracted him to the role, Dickman told the Gazette: “I can’t speak highly of Steve Harper, Mark Atkinson and Neil Winskill to be honest.

Newcastle United under-23s lead coach Elliott Dickman.

“The plan they’ve got in place is working. The work they’re doing behind the scenes is to help develop the academy from pre-academy all the way up to the 23s is fantastic.

“The coaching model, training model and the game model is very, very impressive.

“The three gentlemen I’ve mentioned are a massive draw for me but it’s also about a fresh challenge and a new opportunity.

“I’ve enjoyed my time at Sunderland and my 26 years there were fantastic but maybe I needed to freshen things up a little for myself as well.

“I think when you’ve been somewhere that long, there’s always going to be a little bit of that (sadness) but it’s a real exciting opportunity here.

"It’s something I’m really looking forward to.”

Following the £305million takeover of the Saudi-led consortium in October, fresh investment has been promised in the training ground and academy after 14 years of neglect.

The change in approach offers a lot of promise – so what are the new ambitions for the academy?

“That question is for Steve Harper if I’m honest,” Dickman admitted.

“I don’t really know the exact ins and outs of that side of things but what I do know is a way of playing, training and coaching is very, very detailed.

“When I spoke to Neil and looked at it, it was exciting and I just can’t wait to get involved.

“Ultimately, I’m still going to learn and develop through the new way of doing things as well, which is exciting for me.”

One desire that won’t change is the aim to nurture players through the academy and into the first team.

But Dickman, who helped the likes of England pair Jordan Pickford and Jordan Henderson advance into senior football, admits it’s no easy task.

“That’s the job ultimately,” Dickman said on his hopes of bringing through Newcastle’s brightest talents. “And it’s something that I don’t think is very easy.”

Mark Atkinson, also formerly of Sunderland and now United’s assistant head of coaching, will have a big role to play as well.

Dickman added: "I think it’s a very difficult challenge at any club to get a young lad into the first team.

“The first thing is the support that we get and give to the individual is important, and I know Mark Atkinson’s role is going to be based around that so working together with Mark will be great.

“That’s what the job is, hopefully we can do that. From what I’ve seen in a short space of time, there are one or two here who are exceptional talents.

“There are little bits I want to try and implement from my aspects, nothing that’s going to contradict the fantastic work that’s gone on.

“I do feel there are still some players in the group who can get better and improve even more.

“It’s now up to us as a club and staff to help nurture that talent. Hopefully they’ll get an opportunity."

“There’s a lot of talent out there,” Dickman said on the North East’s catchment area.

“There’s a lot of people behind the scenes working hard, recruiting, scouting and looking at future potential players.

“That’s in place anywhere, it’s been in place for years but the main thing is cherry-picking out the ones that are right for Newcastle.

“The recruitment team will do that and then it’s up to us to help them develop and hopefully get them better as players.”

Although the development of United’s young players will always come first, Dickman is eager to scrap the narrative that results aren't important at youth level.

Despite back-to-back defeats to Southampton and Mansfield Town in the Papa John’s Trophy, Dickman wants results.

He said: “Sometimes in youth football people say winning is a dirty word but I’m a very competitive individual.

“I want to win every single game that we play but I wouldn’t sacrifice that for the detriment of somebody’s development, so it is a balance but I would expect every player to be committed, fully into the game and want to win.

“If you’re not that way inclined - if you’re a young player and you’re thinking ‘I’m not bothered if we win or lose’ then you’re going to find it difficult to become a professional footballer.”

Dickman’s appointment may have raised some eyebrows among Newcastle and Sunderland supporters but he is someone that knows the area, and has a track record and developing young players – just like Pickford and Henderson.

“It was a long time ago but I am very proud of the achievements,” Dickman revealed. "It wasn’t solely down to myself, there’s a massive team of people who have supported those two lads and many others.

“There are many others who are doing great and I wish them all the best.

“Any coach would be telling you lies if they didn’t get a sense of pride when somebody makes their debut in the first-team or they play at international level.

“It has happened at Newcastle with plenty of players. We’ve just got to keep working hard to get more through.”