Dan Ashworth’s number one priority at Newcastle United underlined by alarming study – Chris Knight

Amanda Staveley and her husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi’s to-do list at Newcastle United remains extensive, nearly five months since the long takeover saga finally came to an end. Premier League survival remains the immediate target, and a seven-match unbeaten streak has given hope that the Magpies will emerge from harm’s way in the coming weeks.

January saw a frenetic transfer scramble to provide head coach Eddie Howe with a side capable of defying history to become the first team to avoid relegation after failing to win any of their first 14 matches. If Newcastle retains its top-flight status, significant investment is again expected this summer.

It is possible that at this stage the Magpies’ planned appointment of former FA technical director Dan Ashworth is still not complete. Newcastle’s move for Brighton’s technical director is now an open secret, and the 50-year-old remains on gardening leave as the clubs try to agree a compensation package.

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Ashworth will be responsible for leading six key areas in her new role at St James’ Park, of recruitment, the academy, the loan system, the women’s team, the medical department and sports science developments at the club. It’s a big task and part of an even wider overhaul, with the new owners already discussing the prospect of expanding St James’ Park as well as a new training ground.

If Newcastle are successful in negotiating Ashworth’s arrival before the summer, the technical director will likely have to take the lead on the transfer window. Nick Hammond was brought on as a consultant on a short-term deal to guide the club through to January, but the frantic circumstances of a month-long swap deal are said to have kept Howe off the pitch. training longer than he would have liked.

Away from transfers however, an alarming study by the CIES Football Observatory has highlighted the scale of the task ahead of Ashworth when it comes to the Magpies academy. Detailing the world’s most profitable youth academies, the data ranks clubs to reap the highest fees since July 2015 on academy graduates who had trained with them for at least three years between their 15th and 21st birthday.

Benfica top the charts with sales of around £315million, with Atletico Madrid’s July 2019 purchase of Joao Felix contributing significantly to that total. Real Madrid and AS Monaco complete the podiums.

The report lists the 50 clubs that generate the most revenue from the sale of their academy prospects and, unsurprisingly, all of England’s ‘Big Six’. Chelsea led the way with almost £175m, with Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City all recouping over £100m over the past seven seasons.

Aston Villa and Leicester City also occupy a place each in the table, with the sales of Jack Grealish and Ben Chilwell respectively largely responsible for the two totals. It will come as no surprise to Newcastle fans to learn that the club did not rank in the CIES Football Observatory study.

It’s been more than 11 years since Newcastle raked in £35million in Andy Carroll’s deadline-day sale to Liverpool. The Magpies are far from recouping similar totals in recent seasons, with Lewis Gibson’s move to Everton in a deal worth up to £6m the biggest.

Like all Premier League clubs, Newcastle oversee a high turnover of their academy on an almost annual basis. But of these dozen departures, only symbolic sums have been made by Rolando Aarons, Dan Barlaser, Kevin Mbabu and Ivan Toney.

As for Howe’s current squad, injuries have prevented Paul Dummett from playing much this season while Sean Longstaff’s contract is due to expire this summer. The club have high hopes for Elliot Anderson and Joe White, while Matty Longstaff has joined Mansfield Town on loan after failing at Aberdeen.

Staveley and Ghodoussi’s ambition to turn Newcastle into a club capable of regularly battling for silverware this decade will only raise the bar for young prospects looking to make first-team breakthroughs. Ashworth’s work in fostering a path between Brighton’s young prospects and first-team loanees will no doubt have been one of many key factors in the owners’ decision to offer him the job.

The CIES Football Observatory study is just the latest reminder of the work that needs to be done to bring the Newcastle academy to a competitive level. This is one of many significant gaps that Ashworth and the new owners will need to address if they are to be successful in revamping the current “Big Six” in future seasons.

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