DAN ASHWORTH’S situation at Newcastle United remains unchanged, but Eddie Howe was always confident the Magpies would be able to function effectively without their exiled sporting director.

Ashworth has been on gardening leave since mid-February after expressing an interest in moving to Old Trafford to take up a similar position with Manchester United.

Amanda Staveley has met Sir Jim Ratcliffe to discuss a compensation package for the 53-year-old, but an agreement has so far proved elusive. Ashworth’s contract at St James’ Park runs until the summer of 2026, and the Newcastle hierarchy have been demanding a fee of around £20m to release him from his current deal.

A compromise remains likely, but while the Magpies have been conducting their own search for Ashworth’s replacement, the impasse with Manchester United remains unchanged.

Both clubs are keen for the situation to be resolved ahead of the reopening of the transfer window later this summer, with Newcastle hoping to have their new sporting director in place before the end of next month.

Crystal Palace’s Dougie Freedman remains the front-runner for the post, having held a series of discussions with senior Newcastle officials in recent weeks. The Magpies have also held talks with Johannes Spors, global sporting director of 777 Group, who are hoping to buy Everton, but Freedman is understood to be their preferred candidate.


Howe has spelled out the need to have a new sporting director in post this summer on a number of occasions, but that does not mean he feared what might happen when Ashworth was moved aside.

While the former FA chief enjoyed a close working relationship with Howe, the strength of the team that had been assembled around him meant his departure was never going to plunge Newcastle into crisis.

“I don't think one person carries that at any football club,” said Howe, who will continue to play a prominent role in Newcastle’s transfer business no matter who is appointed to work alongside him. “The football club is more important than that.

“Whatever the vision set from the ownership, it's your duty underneath that to try and drive the club forward when you're in my shoes. Even if I wasn't here, there would be someone else to drive Newcastle forward so one person can't have that hold over what you're doing.

“It was important for us to go full steam ahead, finish the season as well as we can, and then, of course, we've got to get the summer right and all the things that Dan may have been involved in here. We will carry on as normal.”