EPL

A closer look at Dan Ashworth, who could fly the Magpies’ nest for Old Trafford

By Sports Desk February 15, 2024

Newcastle sporting director Dan Ashworth appears to be a man in demand as new Manchester United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe attempts to establish a new era at Old Trafford.

Reports claim Ratcliffe has identified Ashworth as the man he wants to oversee a reboot after his purchase of a 25 per cent stake in the club was approved by the Football Association.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at Ashworth’s credentials and career to date.

Who is Dan Ashworth?

Ashworth, 52, is a renowned football administrator who was head-hunted by Newcastle’s new Saudi-backed owners to take up the role of sporting director, which he did in June 2022 after serving a period of notice with former club Brighton. Handed responsibility for the club’s “overarching sporting strategy, football development and recruitment at all ages”, he oversaw the Magpies’ surge to a fourth-place Premier League finish and the return of Champions League football to Tyneside after an absence of two decades in his first season in the role.

What is his background?

Having been released by Norwich’s Academy as a 17-year-old full-back, Ashworth worked as a PE teacher while studying for his coaching badges – including the UEFA Pro Licence – and playing semi-professionally for St Leonards and Wisbech Town before a spell in the United States with West Florida Fury.

Where has he worked?

He was handed his first full-time role by Peterborough, where he began life as the club’s education and welfare officer and worked his way up to Academy director during Barry Fry’s reign as manager. He spent three years as director of Cambridge’s Centre of Excellence before joining forces with Aidy Boothroyd to establish West Brom’s Academy. However, it was in his role with the FA, which he took up in 2012, that his stock rose sharply. He was the man responsible for instilling an “England DNA”, an ethos encompassing the entire international set-up at St George’s Park, which has been cited as a major factor in the senior team’s progression to the latter stages of the last three major tournaments as well as success at age group level. In 2018, he joined Brighton and helped to establish the club as an emerging Premier League force.

What are his strengths?

 

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Ashworth is far more than a transfer guru. A man credited with an eye for undiscovered talent, his involvement on that front in recent years – and certainly at Newcastle – has been to get the deal done when a target has been identified and agreed upon. However, he sees himself largely as the hub of a wheel, linking the various activities of a club’s football operations strategically and ensuring all are functioning to the benefit of the whole. His breadth of experience in different aspects of the business and his personable manner allow him to interact effectively with staff from top to bottom.

How easy will it be to prise him away from St James’ Park?

Given their determination to get him in the first place – he resigned from his job Brighton in February 2022 and had to wait around four months to get to work at St James’ – Newcastle will be understandably reluctant to allow Ashworth to leave. However, they are equally aware that should United adopt a similar approach to theirs having persuaded their man his future lies elsewhere – after another suitable spell of gardening leave – they may simply be better off biting the bullet and negotiating his departure. Asked about his exit from the AMEX Stadium in October 2022, Ashworth said: “Sometimes in life an opportunity comes along where you just go, ‘Blimey, it’s just too good to turn down’.” That time may have arrived once again.

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