Dan Ashworth says his dream is to help Newcastle challenge at the top of the Premier League – but admits the level of spending that has seen the club splash out £210m since January cannot continue at the same rate.
The club’s new sporting director helped smash their transfer record by agreeing to pay Real Sociedad a total of £63m for the Swedish international striker Alexander
Isak, who has scored two goals in three games since his big-money move.
Ashworth, who left Brighton to take on the role earlier this year following the club’s £300m Saudi-backed takeover, is aware the club may have to be more shrewd in upcoming windows as they battle the parameters of FFP.
But he hopes that with future increased revenue streams and further solid business, Newcastle can set their own heady targets.
He said: “I don’t think there is a ceiling. But I pause because I know how good the others are. If you look at Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal – how good their squads and infrastructure is – they are some clubs to catch.
“It’s difficult but it is possible. We have no God-given right, within one or two transfer windows to go. ‘Bang, we should be competing with the top four’. But things do happen in football that are strange – look at Leicester.
“I knew how passionate the supporters were. But I have still been surprised – whether that’s popping across the road to get a sandwich or the 50,000 in the stadium.
“It was just too good an opportunity to turn down. Sometimes in a life an opportunity comes along where you go ‘Wow! Blimey'”
“I want to be a sporting director competing in Europe, for trophies, at the top end of the league.
“It really has taken me by surprise how much the club means to Newcastle United supporters. I’d underestimated it. It has been brilliant. I have loved being here and loved the challenge.”
Ashworth admits summer window was a ‘challenge’
Newcastle spent in the region of £120m in the summer on Isak, Matt Targett, Sven Botman and Nick Pope.
He said: “Being pitched into a summer window without building relationships and understanding how the board works, how Eddie Howe works, or how the recruitment works has been a challenge.
“Obviously you are stuck within a tight timeframe because the transfer window shuts on September 1. So it was getting players out and off the books.
“Getting some players on loan from a development pathway point of view. Adjusting contracts, like Elliot Anderson, and the staff, Eddie Howe and some senior and youth recruits.
“So we brought in five senior players and obviously goalkeeper Loris Karius came in post-deadline and we signed five players for the younger players.
“I have been doing this job 15 years now and I don’t think I have ever said the day after deadline: ‘That was perfect and we got every position we wanted and everybody we wanted’.
“I always would like emerging talents in that category and younger players, and possibly one more to support the first-team. But, overall, [we are] really pleased with the players we signed and the business we [have] done.”
‘We are having to upscale the majority of departments and facilities’
Newcastle’s new Chief executive Darren Eales has joined Ashworth in the boardroom, with his remit to bring in more commercial revenue to help with their battle with FFP.
The more Eales can bring in, the more Newcastle can spend in future windows. While admitting the next couple of windows will probably see them curb their spending, the former Atlanta United CEO’s remit is to make Newcastle a sustainable top-six club.
Newcastle currently sit sixth in the Premier League, ten points behind leaders Arsenal following back-to-back comfortable wins over Fulham and Brentford.
But Ashworth is aware the job at the club is a huge one, and in many ways the football on the pitch is at more of an advanced stage than some of the work going on in terms of infrastructure in the background.
He added: “I think that everybody would admit that there are certain areas of the club that have been run on more of a skeleton framework and a survival basis, like, ‘If we can stay in the Premier League that’s fine or enough’.
“That’s not enough anymore. So, consequently, you have to upscale the majority of departments and facilities in order to try to achieve our goals, which are to finish higher up the league, to compete for trophies and aspirational targets.
“[That is] the trajectory the club is going towards over the next few years. So, consequently, there is a building out of structures and capacity in order to be able to achieve that.”
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