Harrison Ashby is under no illusion over the scale of the task now facing him at Newcastle United. The promising full-back has already spoken of his desire to learn from Kieran Trippier and the patience he will need to hopefully one day succeed the Magpies' stand-in skipper.
Ashby's move to Tyneside was a move months in the making, and the £3 million arrival from West Ham was not announced until the morning of deadline day. Hours later, the 21-year-old was paraded alongside Anthony Gordon in front of a jubilant St James' Park crowd as Eddie Howe's side went on to book their place in the Carabao Cup final.
A setback for Javier Manquillo combined with Emil Krafth's ongoing recovery from a long-term injury could see Ashby thrust into senior action sooner than expected. After all, the 21-year-old only made seven first-team appearances for the Hammers, the last of which came as a substitute in the Europa Conference League in November.
READ MORE: Anthony Gordon has already given Eddie Howe a huge decision to make at Newcastle
However, there is a sense of frustration at West Ham over the academy graduate's departure, with David Moyes confirming the defender had turned down an offer to extend his contract beyond this summer. Newcastle capitalised with a cut-price transfer, and it is one that fans at the London Stadium feel they could be made to rue.
James Jones, the co-founder of the We Are West Ham Podcast, told ChronicleLive: "West Ham fans are a bit gutted as they genuinely saw him as a long-term Aaron Cresswell replacement. Cresswell isn't getting any younger and the club will need to find a replacement for him soon, and the fans felt like we had one in Ashby.
"The main thing the club are frustrated with, though, is the fee. £3m including add-ons is seen as a very low fee for a player who has a lot of potential, regardless of how long he had left on his contract. The sell-on clause is a good addition to the deal but the general feeling us we may as well have just given him away."
Twitter user EXWHUEmployee, who provided regular updates on the transfer for The West Ham Way podcast, added: "I think the feeling is a bit mixed. There are obviously a large core group of fans who are disappointed that yet another one of our prospects has left us.
"He is tenacious and isn’t afraid to get stuck in. He is strong in the tackle but is also able to use his pace to get up and down the flanks. He has a lot of potential.
"West Ham were stung by Reece Oxford getting a large contract perhaps too soon and we now don’t offer academy players large deals meaning they can be picked off by other clubs. This season we saw Leeds do the same thing with Sonny Perkins.
"There are some fans that were not happy that Ashby refused to negotiate a deal with the club he had been at for years and so far no academy player that has left West Ham early has gone on to haunt us. There is a fear that Ashby could be the one we regret letting go but time will tell."
Ashby began his career on the books at Chelsea, before joining West Ham's academy setup at the age of 16. The rising star signed his first professional contract in 2020, and the defender consistently impressed at under-21 level before making his senior breakthrough.
Reflecting on Ashby's time at the club, Jones said: "His time at West Ham was filled with promise. When he played he did look good and showed signs that he could potentially become a more permanent fixture in first-team squads.
"Ben Johnson had to bide his time before getting his chance and we felt the same would apply to Ashby. We didn't see a great deal of him at a good level to really see his true qualities but what we did see was a player who could go on to replace Aaron Cresswell in the starting eleven."
Newcastle made their first approach for Ashby in the summer, with the young full-back entering the final year of his contract. West Ham resisted these overtures, and hoped to tempt the defender to sign an extension.
However, Ashby made it clear he had his heart set on a switch to St James' Park. There was strong competition for places at full-back, but ultimately this stance led to the 21-year-old being phased out of West Ham's matchday squads in his final months with the club.
Jone said: "He went from featuring in cup games and regularly being named on the bench in the Premier League to not being included in squads at all. Clearly, Moyes felt like he couldn't trust in him to give his absolute all for the club while he was haggling over a new deal and also flirting with Newcastle for six or seven months."
Ashby will have to bide his time to stake his claim for a regular starting spot at Newcastle, with Trippier recently extending his contract until the summer of 2025. The La Liga winner will leave big shoes to fill for when he eventually does depart, but has the latest January signing already shown enough to suggest he could be the man for the job?
ExWHUEmployee said: "Yes, I would say they are very similar players and I can see why Newcastle would see Ashby as a long term replacement for Trippier. I don’t think Ashby has the same ability from set pieces as Trippier however but he hasn’t really had the chance to show either way."
However, Jones urged a note of caution, answering: "I think it's too early to make any comparisons to Trippier. He has the potential to be a good Premier League player but I don't think anyone has seen enough of him to really judge whether he can reach Trippier's level."
Gary Neville doubles down on 'unpopular' Newcastle prediction after witnessing 'turning point'
Jamaal Lascelles left 'really sad' as he opens up on emotional Newcastle dressing room farewell
Anthony Gordon's vow can solve recent Newcastle United problem as competition for places hots up
Newcastle must find solution to problem highlighted by Jermain Defoe as worrying Bruno stat emerges
Newcastle may benefit from alleged Man City spending breach with points deduction possible