Eddie Howe ‘way off’ from completing Newcastle United vision as Dan Ashworth question raised

Newcastle United outlined his desire to develop academy players two years agoNewcastle United outlined his desire to develop academy players two years ago
Newcastle United outlined his desire to develop academy players two years ago | Getty Images
A youthful Newcastle United side were humbled 8-0 by an A-League All Star line-up in Melbourne

Humour turned into embarrassment for Newcastle United in Melbourne. In a clickbait-dominated world, the headline that the Magpies lost 8-0 to a bunch of A-League nobodies will evoke mockery from rival fans. 

This was a sink-or-swim test for the club’s academy stars - and they failed on every metric. Newcastle were supposed to appeal to a worldwide audience Down Under but few Aussie kids will be pestering their local sports shop tomorrow for a black-and-white shirt after that performance.

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Granted, several prospects, such as Alfie Harrison and Cathal Heffernan, did not feature. But getting thrashed 8-0 proved telling - serving as a reminder of how far the Magpies’ are from boasting a world-class academy.

Howe clearly failed to do his research about how much of a threat the A-League All Stars posed. It was men against boys as the young Magpies pleaded “no mas” at the full-time whistle. Credit to the Aussies, they ruthlessly refused to take their foot off the gas, almost as if the Newcastle line-up was a sign of disrespect.

Ironically, the Toon boss insisted academy results were not everything when assessing the under-18s poor results two years ago. Howe outlined his vision to integrate young players - as he has done with Elliot Anderson and Lewis Miley.

However, he may need to wait before unleashing a conveyor belt of talent from the club’s Benton base. Howe said in 2022: "I don't think results are the be-all and end-all. So even if teams have struggled or not had the best season as a team, for me, it's not about that.

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"It is about the individuals coming through to the first team here. I want to bring the Academy and the under-23s closer to us. We try to do that already to an extent by having training once a week with the Under-23s who come in with the first team. We try to integrate things that way. 

“It’s important that we embrace everything to do with the football club. Nothing would please me more than to bring two or three players through per year who can compete and get into the first team. That might be some way off but I'd love to do that."

The result also raises questions about Dan Ashworth’s impact on the youth ranks. As sporting director, one of his remits was to oversee the academy following years of neglect.

Garang Kuol was billed as the “Australian Messi” but has flattered to deceive on two loan spells since arriving from Central Coast Mariners. The 19-year-old looked bereft of confidence in a fixture that launched his career when playing against Barcelona two years ago.

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Perhaps Yankuba Minteh, the Gambia international who was in devastating form for Feyenoord last season, will be a fairer reflection of Ashworth’s input on the youth system. Even then, much of the proof was in the pudding when Newcastle-lite trudged off the Melbourne turf. There is still an underlying sense of “what did Ashworth do?” to enhance the Magpies during his 18-month reign.

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