Newcastle United transfer news: Ashworth’s first job is moving unwanted players
Newcastle United supporters hailed the first off-field arrival of the summer as if he were a stellar first-team signing, while those inside the club reacted to the news with a mix of anticipation, excitement and – perhaps most importantly in the short term – relief.
Many footballing personalities have expressed their belief that Dan Ashworth is the most important addition Newcastle will make this summer. Taking on a newly created role of ‘sporting director’, the former director of elite development at the Football Association and more recently Brighton’s technical director will oversee football operations and has been tasked with ensuring that the club realizes the great ambitions of their new owners.
In the long term, sources point out that Ashworth will aim to ‘transform’ Newcastle from ‘top to bottom’ into an elite sporting institution – by creating new departments, hiring staff, overhauling and upgrading infrastructure, proposing new ideas and creating greater cohesion between all. club branches.
Still, while these tantalizing prospects are going to take time to unfold, insiders are confident Ashworth will also have an “immediate impact” on what is a hugely significant summer window, and the first of the consortium led by the Saudi Arabia since taking control last October.
The 51-year-old is not expected to drastically change Newcastle’s plan for this off-season – target lists have already been drawn up and inquiries have been made – but will aim to ensure his business operates according to this plan.
Interestingly, while he is expected to be involved in all transactions, it is the exits, rather than the entries, where his assistance will be most greatly appreciated.
Vital as it is that head coach Eddie Howe starts the 2022-23 campaign in August with the four to six new faces he feels are needed to develop the side that finished the season strong last to end up in 11th place after flirting earlier. with relegation, it is also essential that players are moved.
Matt Targett is returning to parent club Aston Villa but, once Newcastle’s loanees return – and when those omitted from the 25-man Premier League squad are taken into account – the club have 31 more players 21-year-olds on his books, including Kell Watts, the defender who helped Wigan Athletic win League One last season, and Matty Longstaff, the midfielder who made it to the League Two play-off final with Mansfield Town after joining them in January.
New contracts have been awarded to Fabian Schar, Paul Dummett and Sean Longstaff, meaning none of those whose contracts were due to expire at the end of June are currently expected to leave.
The graph below outlines the bloated nature of Newcastle’s player pool and the remaining length of each individual’s contract – and underlines why there is a desire to move around a third of them.
Sensibly, Howe declined to comment publicly on who might leave, but at least some of Dwight Gayle, Matt Ritchie, Isaac Hayden, Ciaran Clark, Federico Fernandez, Jeff Hendrick, Freddie Woodman and Mark Gillespie will be made available. There is also a strong desire to reduce the overall age of the squad, which means some who have served the club well over a long period will go.
Howe has already held meetings with players cleared to move on – some in person ahead of the final day win over Burnley and some virtually – or spoken to them over the phone.
The head coach would prefer the squad that shows up for the start of pre-season training on July 1 to be made up of the players he intends to keep, new signings and youngsters whose next steps will be assessed, like the 19-year-old. old Elliot Anderson, whose seven goals on loan at Bristol Rovers for the second half of last season helped them win automatic promotion to League One.
Ideally, those no longer considered part of his first-team plans will have found alternative clubs by now, although it seems highly unlikely that all have done so. It remains to be seen whether they will continue to train with the senior team if they haven’t moved on, even though they know they have no future under Howe.
There is an acceptance within Newcastle that while Howe may have identified the players he does not intend to play for him next season, the club face a problem when it comes to unload them. Telling the players they can leave is the easy part, however difficult the conversation may be; successfully negotiating a way out acceptable to all parties is another matter.
The window may not officially open until June 10, but clubs will have already done most of their preliminary recruitment work – and, as things stand, Newcastle have not received any substantial offers for their available players. The agents of some members of this group have been informed of their interest, but the interest is very different from that of the clubs who present a concrete proposal.
The reality is that, should a decent offer arrive, Newcastle would consider parting ways with a significant part of their current squad, and Howe’s transfer budget would be augmented by player sales.
Hiring managers and agents are skeptical of the value of Newcastle’s fringe players, given their age profile and, for some, recent lack of football.
But the issue isn’t just a matter of the fees Newcastle can potentially charge. If moving players around was so simple, some Howe decided he could live without being long gone.
Instead, the current hierarchy must deal with the aftermath of a damaging policy, enacted during the final stages of Mike Ashley’s ownership.
Senior players, some of whom were aging and declining in effectiveness, were granted extensions on far superior terms than they would have received elsewhere.
It was an exercise in short-term saving, as it meant Ashley, who was desperate to sell the club, didn’t need to shell out a transfer fee to replace them. Yet these extended, and in some cases improved, contracts bound those involved to the club.
According to Kieran Maguire, a lecturer in football finance at the University of Liverpool and host of The Price Of Football podcast, the average (average) Premier League salary for 2020-21 was £81,000 a week, which is significantly inflated by salaries paid by top clubs, while the median (the figure halfway between the highest and lowest) was £62,000.
Newcastle’s average salary that season was £54,162, and some players who could leave are on such salaries. As their status has changed and they have gone from regular starters to fringe players, or even been omitted from the squad altogether, these people are now on terms at St James’ Park that are highly unlikely to they are offered elsewhere.
Representatives of those wishing to find regular playing time elsewhere have discovered while researching a new club that their clients will almost certainly have to take a substantial pay cut to do so. A player, whose family is settled in the area, is said to be reluctant to move unless he receives equal or better terms at his new club – and intends to honor the contract awarded to him by Newcastle and signed in good faith.
Few, if any, will find other clubs offering them a pay rise, and that’s largely down to age as much as ability.
As the graph below shows, more than half of the team are already past their position’s “maximum age” – the calculation of which is explained in this article – while seven are in their prime years, and only four have not entered it yet.
With the majority of available players being between the ages of 28 and 32, their earning potential is likely to be negatively affected, while it can also be further hampered for those lacking playing time. Back-up striker Gayle, for example, is highly rated by several Championship clubs given his excellent goalscoring record in this division with Peterborough United and West Bromwich Albion as well as Newcastle, but he will be 33 at the start of next season and there is hesitation of some on his durability, having just four league starts in the last two Premier League seasons, the most recent of them 14 months ago.
For some supporters, the solutions are simple: send unwanted players out on loan and subsidize their salaries, or simply pay off their contracts.
Although both options are explored, neither is without complications.
Newcastle are already aware of the Premier League’s profit and sustainability regulations, and any contract settlements would factor into their Financial Fair Play (FFP) calculations. It may be better to make deals with certain people, but if several players receive the exceptional value of their contracts, in whole or in part, early on, it could affect the club’s ability to spend elsewhere, particularly if little or nothing is n is generated by sales. .
Additionally, the overall wage budget also matters to the FFP and, after their extensive activities in January, Newcastle’s annual wage expenditure is said to have increased by around £12-15m. Amanda Staveley, the co-owner, revealed in March that the salary-to-revenue ratio was around 65%, which she called “too high”, and simply paying players Howe doesn’t want will not only make this worse.
When it comes to loan deals, some players are said to be receptive to a temporary transfer if he offers them regular football. But others, particularly those in the final 12 months of their contract, would fear picking up an injury while playing elsewhere, which could negatively affect their ability to secure a decent permanent deal elsewhere once Newcastle’s expires.
Members of recruitment circles also point out that, while some loan deals are confirmed early, most – particularly those involving senior players – are done late in the window, meaning Newcastle may risk individuals returning for pre-season training who are aware that their future lies with other clubs.
Potential Newcastle arrivals have rightly dominated the transfer agenda. But revenue is inextricably linked to their success in advancing players.
Ashworth can make significant long-term changes to Newcastle, but his immediate priority must be trimming down a bloated and aging squad.
(Top photo: Getty Images)