Former Celtic man's unique role at Newcastle United under PIF and Amanda Staveley explained
Newcastle United experienced its busiest January transfer window in some time despite a warning that it would be ‘the hardest’ the club will ever have.
That warning came from Nick Hammond, who worked with Newcastle during the winter recruitment process as an interim transfer consultant.
While the January window certainly posed its challenges for The Magpies, they were still able to secure five new arrivals with Kieran Trippier, Chris Wood, Bruno Guimaraes, Dan Burn and Matt Targett joining the club.
Newcastle spent in the region of £90million in January, more than any other club in the world in their first transfer window under new ownership.
The Magpies were subject to a £300million takeover by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media back in October.
Given the consortium’s lack of experience in the transfer market, they approached former Reading, West Bromwich Albion and Celtic technical director Hammond in November regarding a temporary position working with the club.
The 54-year-old agreed to the role and spent two months working with Newcastle through a hectic December and January period.
Now the dust has settled on his time at Newcastle, Hammond has provided a unique insight into what his role entailed and his impression of how things are behind the scenes at the club.
“Newcastle came [to me] a couple of weeks before the beginning of December,” Hammond told Training Ground Guru during a scouting and recruitment webinar.
“To me, it was a really interesting and quite exciting opportunity to come and work with the new owners, of which there are three groups; with Eddie Howe, who I knew from being in the game for a long time; and Steve Nickson, an extremely good, experienced head of recruitment.
“This was the second time I’d provided a consultancy service for a team through a window. The first time I did was with Celtic through the summer 2019 window.
“Newcastle have a long-term plan, for sure, but they had a short-term problem when we were going into the January window.
"Quite clearly they wanted to appoint a new CEO, a new sporting director and build the club out from there, but in the short term they were approaching the January window and looking for someone who had a degree of experience navigating through the complexities of any transfer window, let alone a January window.
“My job, really, was to advise the owners in relation to the players, the due diligence around the players and the financial aspects of the deals they were trying to complete.
“I said to the guys at the start, this will be the hardest transfer window you’ll probably ever have, because you are literally a group of people coming together in a very short space of time and having to hit the ground running.”
The January window proved to be a successful one on the whole for Newcastle as they subsequently put together a nine game unbeaten run with their new recruits to move nine points clear of the relegation zone and up to 14th in the Premier League table.
And Hammond believes the diligence and approach of head coach Eddie Howe was crucial during the transfer window.
“Fortunately there’s a very experienced head coach [at Newcastle],” he added. “A very clear thinking guy, very precise in terms of what he wants and what he wanted, which is critical for a head coach – that clarity that comes from them is massively important.
"Fortunately Eddie Howe gave that to the people dealing with the transfer window at Newcastle.”
Newcastle are currently looking to appoint a new sporting director with Dan Ashworth expected to take the role after resigning from a similar position at Brighton and Hove Albion in February.
But reports this week suggest that The Magpies could have to wait until November to officially appoint Ashworth due to the notice period in his Brighton contract.
Without an official sporting director in place, Hammond helped provide support in a slightly less ‘hands-on’ role.
“My role was a little bit more in the background than I would be as a normal sporting director,” Hammond continued. “As a sporting director over my career I would lead the discussions, lead the negotiations with potential signings.
“This role was sort of a step removed from that, doing the checks and balances in the background, having an opinion on the players who had already been identified by Steve Nickson and his team, having taken a good steer from Eddie Howe, the new head coach, who had to make very quick decisions in terms of where he saw his squad.”
While Hammond’s time working with Newcastle was short, it proved to be a memorable experience for the former Swindon Town and Reading goalkeeper.
"It was a fascinating experience, I thoroughly enjoyed it, but a very challenging time for them," he admitted. "It was interesting in as much as here you’ve got a group of people who all want to achieve the same thing but they’re new, they’re almost thrown together.
"I don’t mean that in a haphazard way, but new group of owners; new head coach; Steve [Nickson], who’s been in the building for a long time, and all of a sudden in a very short space of time you’ve got to come together and make some decisions to try and strengthen the team for what is the short term ambition of staying in the Premier League.”