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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Barry Glendenning

Newcastle’s Dan Ashworth, a very expensive suit and a pair of secateurs

Dan Ashworth on the Wembley pitch.
Dan Ashworth knows a fine-looking lawn when he sees one. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA


As the days get longer and the temperatures warmer, there’s plenty to be getting on with for those of a green-fingered bent. Vegetable beds need to be prepared, seed potatoes need to be chitted ahead of planting and fruit crops need to be netted to protect them from our hungry feathered friends. Once you’ve taken care of all that grunt work, your winter-flowering shrubs and wisteria will need pruning, while heaven forfend you should forget to cut back your deciduous ornamental grasses to make sure there’s plenty of room for spring’s new growth. With so much to do and so little time to do it, Dan Ashworth can consider himself lucky to have been put on gardening leave by his employers at Newcastle United after being approached by Manchester United to become their new director of football.

Currently occupying the same role at St James’ Park, where he moved in May 2022 after successive stints as technical director with West Brom, the Football Association and Brighton, Ashworth is clearly held in very high regard even if Football Daily isn’t entirely sure what it is exactly the 52-year-old does. Upon his appointment we were told he was tasked with overseeing the “overarching sporting strategy, football development and recruitment at all ages” at Newcastle following the Saudi takeover. If it is to be presumed that he played a major role in the recruitment of success stories such as Alexander Isak, Sven Botman and Nick Pope, then we can conclude he was probably equally instrumental in spaffing £55m on an Italian midfielder who is now serving a lengthy ban for betting offences. Betting offences that were committed while he was at a club, cynics might say, who were desperate to offload him with what now seems like suspicious haste. Football Daily lawyers are keen to highlight that Milan have denied any knowledge of Sandro Tonali’s offences.

While all references to Newcastle’s decidedly average current form must be caveated with references to their terrible luck with injuries and the manner in which they’re rather hamstrung in their transfer market dealings by Profit and Sustainability rules, the past two windows have been little short of disastrous. With the sight of a tormented Dan Burn trailing in the slipstream of younger, more agile and pacy wingers now a weekly event, Newcastle fans could be forgiven for wondering why Lewis Hall, brought in from Chelsea on loan, rarely gets a run-out. And why his near namesake and fellow left-back Jamal Lewis is currently on loan at Watford.

Meanwhile in midfield, the conspicuous hole caused by Joelinton’s long-term knack could and should have been filled in January. Going on recent evidence, we’re prepared to concede that Newcastle might have dodged a Kalvin Phillips-shaped bullet, although they couldn’t possibly have known he would have forgotten how to play football during his 18 months on the sidelines at Manchester City. Anyway, the point we’re slowly meandering towards, is that when it comes to players, Newcastle’s recruitment policy seems as hit-and-miss as most other clubs, which makes Manchester United’s apparent desperation to get Ashworth on board all the more puzzling.

Newcastle have decided to test that resolve by demanding £20m compensation to part with an employee they can presumably afford to keep on paying while he tends to his rhododendrons until early 2026. Reports suggest Sir Jim Ratcliffe is baulking at stumping up such a large fee, which seems self-defeating and arguably an ominous portent of things to come at Old Trafford. If Ashworth is as good as some say – and we can’t stress enough that we have no idea whether he is or not – £20m seems like good value if it means getting in somebody who might stop Manchester United hosing money on questionable, overpriced signings such as Antony, Jadon Sancho and Mason Mount.

Eddie Howe is not believed to have had a close working relationship with Ashworth and conveyed the impression he would not be particularly gutted to see him head for a Newcastle door marked Do One. He has, however, expressed concerns that should Ashworth potter to Old Trafford, he will take his in-depth knowledge of Newcastle’s recruitment strategy with him, even if their recent forays – or lack of them – into the transfer market suggest this may be no bad thing. Newcastle have every right to hold out for at least £20m and should inform Sir Jim that the price will increase significantly with each passing week that Dan remains out in the garden laying waste with his secateurs.


Join Rob Smyth at 8pm GMT for live updates on Everton 1-2 Crystal Palace.


“This club is very special and means so much to me and has played a big part in my footballing life. I have fully enjoyed my time here across six seasons, as it has given me the chance to work with top class players and staff doing what I love every day. However, I understand, given recent circumstances, it may be prudent at this time for the club to plan ahead, and therefore I have taken the decision to step aside so that the club can bring forward their plans for a new manager, as intended for this summer” – Roy Hodgson, fresh out of hospital and thankfully “doing well”, has left his role as manager of Crystal Palace after 200 games across six seasons. “We owe our continued Premier League status to Roy,” sobbed owner Steve Parish. “He has the keys to Selhurst Park and will always be welcomed back.”

Keep smiling, Roy.
Keep smiling, Roy. Photograph: Zac Goodwin/PA


I wonder how many readers plugged 하나를 수행 into Google Translate to make sure you’d got it right (Friday’s News, Bits and Bobs). I was one who checked and was hoping for some conjugation error that would’ve translated to something like ‘He done did one’; but you were spot on. Well done one!” – Jim Christie.

For a very brief moment I had the notion to check the translation of 하나를 수행. After an even briefer moment I decided getting a life would be more beneficial” – Kevin Worley.

Is there anything more mind numbing than the ongoing, revisited, regurgitated Kylian Mbappé leaving PSG saga? Well is there?” – Russell D Pulford.

As far as I’m concerned, the only way the everlasting and tired Mbappé transfer saga can be made even remotely interesting again is if Wolverhampton Wanderers were suddenly rumoured to gazump Real Madrid. The Boy Who Cried Wolves!” – Peter Oh.

Send letters to Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Kevin Worley.

This is an extract from our daily football email … Football Daily. To get the full version, just visit this page and follow the instructions.

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