Newcastle United sporting director Dan Ashworth believes the Magpies are on ‘an upward trajectory’ and expects them to fight for trophies in the coming years.
Ashworth, who assumed the new role at St James’ Park in June 2022, has shared his lofty ambitions for the club.
“The next number of years is to fight and get into the top six on a regular basis and compete for trophies,” he said, as quoted by the BBC.
“We are on an upward trajectory, but there are definitely some bumps in the road and that is the nature of football – but we are on the right pathway.”
Last season was a transformative one for the Tyneside outfit as they went from perennial bottom-half strugglers to landing a place in the Champions League group stage for the first time in over two decades.
Although a substantial cash influx from the wealthy Saudi owners laid the foundation for the club’s renaissance, it takes nothing away from Eddie Howe’s sterling job in the dugout.
Unlike other similarly-led clubs, the Magpies have restrained from signing the world’s most expensive stars, opting for highly-rated talents and mid-priced players that would fit Howe’s system instead.
While clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City were busy splashing out stratospheric figures on the most sought-after prospects, Newcastle have stuck to their regular recruitment routine.
Sandro Tonali’s mega-money arrival from AC Milan remains an exception. But Ashworth and Howe deserve the credit for crafting a superb mix of domestic and foreign players without breaking the bank.
More importantly, the recruits during the freshly-started Saudi era have fit in perfectly, helping Newcastle become a force to be reckoned with, perhaps sooner than first thought.
The Magpies’ return to the Champions League has cast significant doubt on their ability to cope with high-profile challenges on multiple fronts, yet they seem to be flourishing.
Howe has instilled a winning mentality
Sceptics had quickly ruled Newcastle out of contention for another top-four finish in the Premier League after the team’s catastrophic start to the new campaign.
However, after losing three of their first four league games of 2023/24, Howe’s side have gone into overdrive, clocking a seven-game unbeaten run, bookended by a 1-0 home triumph over Arsenal on Saturday.
Even though an underwhelming form at the beginning of the season threatened to lock them out of the top-four race, they’re already back in the picture, reducing the gap on the fourth-placed Gunners to four points.
While fighting their way up the ladder in the world’s best league, the Magpies haven’t taken their eyes off other competitions. By contrast, they’ve excelled on other fronts.
PSG’s visit to St James’ Park in early October produced one of the most memorable nights in Newcatle’s European history as they thumped one of the Champions League favourites 4-1.
Manchester United and Man City couldn’t stop Howe’s troops from setting up an exciting League Cup quarter-final tie against Chelsea, with the former going down 3-0 at Old Trafford.
Unlike last season when Newcastle usually delivered against so-called ‘smaller clubs,’ they’ve shown their teeth against the big guns this year, proving this team is evolving.
Team over individuals
Tonali’s suspension could have rocked Newcastle’s world, especially after making him the most expensive Italian player in history, yet they’ve dealt with the problem stoically.
And that’s not only been the case off the field, where they’ve been supportive and backed their troubled star every step of the way while facing illegal charges and eventually the punishment.
The Magpies have thrived in his absence, showing the quality of this team doesn’t rest with the individuals but the group.
Without their new midfield architect, Howe’s side took Old Trafford by storm, overpowering Man United in every aspect of the game, only days before becoming the first Premier League side to beat Arsenal this season.
Kudos to Howe, who has built an extraordinary squad that knows better than to rely on the individuals and instead perform as a unit, which is always a positive sign.
So maybe Ashworth’s statement is more than wishful thinking.
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