Newcastle United's new owners wait on their most significant signing yet

The last time Newcastle United appointed a director of football, it didn’t end particularly well.

Thursday, 10th February 2022, 12:28 pm

That said, the appointment did make for some good copy at the start.

The club, taken over late last year, hasn’t had a director of football since Joe Kinnear’s short spell in the role nine years ago, ut that is about to change, as the club is set to appoint Dan Ashworth, who is serving an “extended period of gardening leave” at Brighton and Hove Albion after resigning as technical director.

Relegation-threatened Newcastle are yet to make any kind of comment on the appointment, though Brighton this week revealed that Ashworth – who previously worked at The Football Association and West Bromwich Albion – will “take a similar role at another Premier League club”.

Dan Ashworth in 2018 when he was the Football Association's director of elite development.

In a statement, Brighton chief executive Paul Barber said: “We are sorry to learn of Dan’s decision. He’s been an important part of the club’s senior management team since joining us from The FA, and has made a significant contribution to our club’s progress in the Premier League and Women’s Super League.”

News leaked of Kinnear’s imminent appointment before it was confirmed by the club in the summer of 2013.

FA Cup-winner Kinnear – who played almost 200 league games for Tottenham Hotspur – picked up the phone when contacted by the Gazette, and, in a memorable, interview, confirmed his appointment by then-owner Mike Ashley.

"What I'm saying is that I've got my finger in the pie halfway around the world,” said Kinnear. "There's no-one I can't pick the phone up to in sports and introduce myself to and talk to them about football or any situation."

Newcastle, in Kinnear’s view, needed a director of football – and he was the best man for the job given his playing and managerial experience.

"Every top club in the land has got one,” said Kinnear. "I'm probably the only football manager to be a director of football.

"I don't know any other ex-managers who have. I've been a manager for 35 years. I've been manager of the year three times. I've won every award there is in football as a player.

"I think all those qualities put me head and shoulders above every other director of football.”

Kinnear, best remembered on Tyneside for a controversial, and colourful, spell as manager following Kevin Keegan’s resignation in September 2008 didn’t last the season.

Kinnear left the club in early 2014 after becoming embroiled in a series of controversies.

The club didn't make a permanent signing during his time as director of football, despite some bold claims from Kinnear at the start of his tenure.

"I'll look at it carefully, and see if any of those players are good enough for us,” Kinnear told the Gazette. "We'll look abroad with (chief scout) Graham Carr. I've had three days with Graham already. We've been paling up, so we'll go abroad.

"We'll got to everywhere in Europe looking at matches. We'll scour the length and breadth of Europe to find what we want – but I’ll be the judge.”

Kinnear also oversaw the sale of Yohan Cabaye to Paris Saint-Germain.

Things were chaotic during Kinnear’s time in the role. Ashworth, we know, will bring structure, though we’ll have to wait for him to speak about his new role at United.

Ashworth will be at the heart of the club’s footballing evolution, working on recruitment, liaising with head coach Eddie Howe and building a better pathway to the first team from the Academy.

Howe spoke of his “respect” for Ashworth when news broke of the club’s interest in appointing him.

Speaking in December, Howe said: “I highly respect Dan and his work, but I won’t go into it any more than that. I don’t think it’s right. He works for another football club. I like him and respect him, but I won’t comment any more.”

Ashworth, 50, is credited with creating a pathway for young players at Brighton.

Derren Howard, sports editor of the Brighton & Hove Independent, said: “Before he arrived, there wasn’t a pathway to the first team. That’s been put in place, and he’s taken a lot of credit for that. I think that will be his main legacy.”

Newcastle have some talented young players at the Academy, and Ashworth will attempt to give them the possible possible chance of progressing to first-team football.

Brighton also had a lot of success in terms of recruitment during Ashworth’s time, notably with Adam Webster and Tariq Lamptey.

Chairman Tony Bloom said: “We are extremely disappointed that Dan will no longer be our technical director. He leaves a significant legacy in place, and for that we are greatly appreciative.

“Dan’s done an outstanding job, and helped build on the progress the club had already made across all of our technical areas. I wish Dan and his family well for the future.”

Ashworth – who helped create “England DNA”, the playing and coaching philosophy of the national teams during his time at the FA – also worked closely with Brighton’s women’s team, which competes in the Women’s Super League.

Newcastle United Women haven’t had the funding, up to now, to compete at that level, but that will hopefully change. More than 2,700 fans watched them play in the Women’s FA Cup last month.

There’s a lot for him to do, but, for now, the club must wait a number of months for him to complete his notice period.

Kinnear was the wrong appointment at the wrong time. Ashworth, however, looks to be the right appoint for a club which finally looks to be moving in the right direction.

This could be the biggest transfer yet for the club since it was taken over.

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