The summer transfer window opened for business on Friday and Newcastle United are expected to be at the forefront of the action over the coming months.
Boosted by a positive second half to what seemed likely to be a disastrous Premier League season and with added confidence fuelled by a successful January transfer window, the Magpies will hope to further strengthen Eddie Howe’s squad during the close-season.
The United hierarchy - now boosted by the recent arrival of sporting director, Dan Ashworth - are working around the clock on incoming and outgoing transfers and improving the spine of Howe’s side is seen as the priority.
The priorities at the moment are progressing with deals for long-term targets Sven Botman and Hugo Ekitike, with confidence growing that there will be movement on both players over the next week.
A dynamic midfielder is also being targeted and Howe would also like to add a winger to his squad, with Watford’s Nigerian international Ismaila Sarr under consideration.
But departures are also required with United possessing an surplus of senior players that far exceeds the limit imposed by the Premier League’s 25-man squad ruling.
That means the likes of Dwight Gayle, Ciaran Clark and Federico Fernandez are all expected to depart for pastures new in the near future.
As mentioned earlier, the success of the January transfer window is fresh in the mind, with the additions of the likes of Kieran Trippier, Dan Burn, Matt Targett, Bruno Guimaraes and Chris Wood all playing a part in securing a mid-table finish.
But those additions did not come easy as United board members, the club’s skeletal recruitment staff and manager Eddie Howe all put in the hours to boost their ranks.
Co-owner Amanda Staveley opened up on the difficulties experienced during the first month of the year and hinted at what the Magpies believe they can offer to potential signings.
Speaking to The Athletic in February, she said: “We were 19th going into the window.
“So we had that, an illiquid market, and the complexity of COVID-19, which meant clubs didn’t want to sell because they didn’t know where their squads would end up.
“We had to encourage players. ‘We’ll be a safe place for you, we’ll deliver and grow’.
“Some desperately wanted to come to us, like Sven [Botman], who still does very much and has talked very openly about that.
“Coming through all that showed us we can do it, that we can stick to our plan.
“And if we get criticised on the last day for ‘oh, you’re going after Jesse (Lingard)’, well, Jesse wanted to come to us.
“We did everything. We never stopped. From the start to the finish, we did not stop working.”
“There will be a lot of things on the to-do list with players in and out”
Of course, United’s infrastructure has been improved since the end of the season with the long-awaited appointment of sporting director Dan Ashworth earlier this month.
The former Brighton and Hove Albion technical director has wasted little time in making an impact with the permanent addition of Matt Targett and the loan departure of Isaac Hayden both confirmed within a week of his arrival.
Ashworth’s will focus on transfers for the time being - but he will also dedicate time on getting an overview of how different areas within the club function.
Speaking to the club website, he said: “The most important thing for me is to understand who’s in place, the culture, where everybody fits, what’s going really well, what’s going on where maybe we have a few gaps and try and bring that together.
“We’re about to start a transfer window, so there will be a lot of things on the to-do list with players in and out - things Eddie will want to do for the first-team squad.
“Within time, it’s about understanding the medical department, the academy, loans, the women’s team and other things across the remit of the sporting director.
“The two most important things for me at the moment are to try and understand and get to know all the staff, how the club functions and the culture here and then short-term, help drive the transfer window for the next three months.”
“You have to try and be ahead of the game”
That will be music to the ears of Magpies boss Eddie Howe, who is keen to avoid the hectic workload he took on during January.
As well as planning and carrying out training and preparations for several key fixtures, Howe took a lead rule in the recruitment process.
That never threatened the impact he would go on to make on his ever-improving squad, with the mid-season warm weather training camp in Saudi Arabia said to have played an integral role in the positive end to the season.
But Howe’s workload was constant as he was constantly in communication with key staff, the club’s owners and agents and players in a bid to get deals completed.
Speaking before the appointment of Ashworth, the United boss admitted that the process of planning their transfer business was already underway and revealed the club will be ‘sensible’ during the summer window.
Howe told NewcastleWorld ahead of the season-ending trip to Burnley: “I just joked with someone there that the planning starts on the coach on the way back,”
“Then I actually had a rethink and said it can wait for tomorrow.
“Look, it does, it starts now, as you have to as the Premier League moves so quickly and the competition is so strong. You have to try and be ahead of the game.
“We will try and be sensible about what we do this summer. We know it is a big time for us.”