Former Manchester United star reveals Newcastle United offer & ‘tough’ Dan Ashworth phone call
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Former Manchester United goalkeeper Ben Foster has revealed he rejected Newcastle United’s contract offer due to family and personal reasons.
An ankle ligament injury to Karl Darlow in training forced the Magpies into the free agent market and sign a back up goalie to No.1 Nick Pope.
Eddie Howe settled on former Liverpool man Loris Karius, who has signed a short-term deal until January, although there is an option to extend the 29-year-old’s stay for the remainder of the campaign.
Foster, without a club after departing Watford in the summer, was approached first but the former England international has explained why he had to turn down the move.
How the Newcastle approach unfolded
The 39-year-old, speaking on his podcast, said: “I’ll take you back to last Tuesday. I’m sitting at home and the phone rings. It’s a guy who I know - Richard Lee, he’s now an agent. He used to be my No.2 at Watford.
“He said ‘Fozzy, listen, I know a team that wants to sign you. I’ve spoken to someone earlier today and it’s good to go, they want to sign you. It’s as simple as that, we just need to nail down terms.
“He said ‘are you ready for it?’ I said, ‘alright cool’. ‘Newcastle United’, basically the richest team in world football right now. They need a back-up goalie asap and I’m still a free agent.
“Just for a bit of context, I live in the Midlands and to get to Newcastle by car is four hours. It’s a bit of a trek, it’s not the sort of place you can commute to every day back and forth.
“I’ve lived in the Midlands for the last 10 years since I left Manchester United. I signed for Birmingham then played at West Brom. Even when I was at Watford I was driving back and forth every day.
“I’m established in the Midlands. The kids go to school, it works, it’s perfect for me but the offer from Newcastle genuinely I’ve gone ‘oh my gosh, this is massive’.
“To be able to sign for a club you know is going to be winning Premier Leagues in the next three or four years. They’re going to be up there challenging.
“To be one of the guys that has been there from ground level and seeing how it builds, it was very interesting to me, so interesting to the point where I’m talking to Richard Lee and said alright, ‘I want this amount of money’.
“The amount of money I asked for... I kind of had this feeling that I didn’t really want to do it just because of the upheaval but I thought if they are going to pay me a really good wage it’s something I’ve got to respect it.
“Richard Lee said ‘cool, I’ll go back to Newcastle, talk to them and we’ll go from there’.
“Deep down, I kind of hoped they were going to say that (no, it’s not for us) because when I heard about Newcastle, straightaway it kind of made me go ‘OK, it’s a nice feeling at least to feel wanted’.”
A direct call to Dan Ashworth to reject the move
Newcastle initially turned down Foster’s demands before agreeing a few hours later.
The next step for Foster was to travel to the North East for his medical, however his gut feeling said no, and he rang Magpies sporting director directly Dan Ashworth to turn down the offer.
Foster continued: “The phone rings, ‘Fozzy they’ve done it, they’ve agreed the contract, they’ve just sent it through. Everything you wanted. They want you up there tonight, they’ve already booked the hotel and you’ve got your medical in the morning’.
“And I’ve gone ‘oh my god, give me half an hour’. This is the point I’m going ‘oh wow’. It was very much up in the air and it was my decision.
“I had this gut feeling saying ‘do not do it’. I was eating my dinner and just decided ‘no, I’m not doing it’. I thought about it enough. I know it was only one or two hours since the offer was concrete but I’m not doing it.
“Time is of the essence. At this point, I had already got a text from Newcastle United’s liaison officer to say ‘your hotel is booked’ and it had instructions for the morning.
“My first port of call was Richard Lee. He genuinely went ‘yeah that’s a good one’ and I said ‘I’m not joking, I can’t do it, I’m really sorry’. I felt like I wasted his time and I don’t like doing that to people.
“I know the chief executive at Newcastle - Dan Ashworth, he was at West Brom. I actually get on really well with Dan. I said to Rich ‘I’ll ring Dan Ashworth and I’ll let him know because I can’t let you do that’.
“Dan answered the phone and said ‘Fozzy, are we all good, yeah?’ I said ‘I’ve got some bad news, I can’t sign, I’m so sorry’. I basically told him everything we’ve already spoken about.
“As far as chief executives go, he is the best out there. He was so sound about it and said ‘Fozzy, this is a tough call for you to make here but I actually really appreciate it. If you had rung me tomorrow when we had all the medicals booked, I’d have been annoyed but doing it now, I appreciate it’.
“I woke up the next morning buzzing with the decision I made. I know I’ve done the right thing.
“I’m 39-years-old. If I’m in my 20s, It’s a no-brainer. With everything else I’ve got going on at the moment - podcasts, football filming on a Monday.
“No hard feelings. The amount of times I’ve spoken about Newcastle and said ‘what a football club’. The atmosphere at St James’ Park, the fans... they are incredible.”
Foster went to announce his retirement from football after a career spanning 22 years.