‘Challenging’ - Dan Ashworth provides verdict on Newcastle United’s £118m summer spending spree

Dan Ashworth played a key role in Newcastle United’s summer transfer business - but that isn’t the only area on his agenda.

Dan Ashworth has reflected on his opening four months as Newcastle United’s sporting director.

The 51-year-old officially commenced his role on June 6 after the Magpies finally agreed a compensation package with Premier League rivals Brighton and Hove Albion.

Ashworth, following a period of gardening leave, wasted no time in getting to work on Tyneside - with one of his first priorities being the summer transfer window.

The former Seagulls technical director helped Eddie Howe recruit five new signings for his first-team squad with Matt Targett, Nick Pope, Sven Botman, Alexander Isak and Loris Karius arriving for a combined total of £118million.

There was also success in signing players for the academy too, Alex Murphy and Charlie McArthur for example, while the likes of big earners Dwight Gayle, Ciaran Clark, Isaac Hayden and Jeff Hendrick departed on loan to the Championship.

Ashworth on summer transfer business

“First of all, I have loved it,” Ashworth told local reporters in a meeting at St James’ Park. “It is a fantastic place to work and a brilliant football club.

“I knew how passionate the supporters were but I have still been surprised, whether that’s popping across the road to get a sandwich or the 50,000 inside the stadium.

“It really has taken me by surprise how much the club means to Newcastle United supporters. It has been brilliant. I have loved being here and loved the challenge.

“Being pitched into a summer window without building relationships and understanding how the board works, how Eddie works or how the recruitment works has been a challenge. Obviously you are stuck within a tight timeframe because the transfer window shuts on September 1, so it was getting players out and off the books.

“Getting some players on loan from a development pathway point of view. Adjusting contracts, i.e, Elliot Anderson, and the staff, Eddie Howe and some senior and youth recruits.

“We brought in five senior players and obviously (Lorius) Karius came in post-deadline. And we signed five players for the younger teams.

“I have been doing this job 15 years now and I don’t think I have ever said the day after deadline: ‘That was perfect and we got every position we wanted and everybody we wanted’.

“I always would like emerging talents and that category and younger players and possibly one more to support the first-team.

“But overall really pleased with the players we signed and business we’ve done.”

Ashworth talks behind the scenes upscale

Recruitment is one of the many departments that fall under Ashworth’s remit as sporting director.

The former England FA and West Brom technical director is also responsible for the club’s overarching sporting strategy, football development and recruitment at all age levels, including working closely with head of academy Steve Harper.

What Ashworth has discovered in his opening months at Newcastle is a “skeleton framework” due to the lack of investment and care under the previous ownership.

But that will change as Ashworth, aligned with the owners’ vision, builds a club capable of consistently challenging for trophies.

Ashworth said: “What I found when I first came here was some incredibly loyal, passionate and long- serving staff. The passion that the supporters have and the staff that have been here a long time is absolutely incredible.

“I think that everybody would admit that there are certain areas of the club that have been run on more of a skeleton framework and a survival basis, like ‘If we can stay in the Premier League that’s fine or enough’.

“That’s not enough anymore. So consequently, you have to upscale the majority of departments and facilities in order to try to achieve our goal, which are to finish higher up the league, to compete for trophies and aspirational targets.

“The trajectory the club is going towards over the next few years. Again, consequently, there is a building out of structures and capacity in order to be able to achieve that.”