Newcastle reduce Dan Ashworth replacement shortlist to two names

Dougie Freedman – Newcastle reduce Dan Ashworth replacement shortlist to two names
Dougie Freedman's work at Crystal Palace as put him in the frame for the job - Getty Images/Jan Christensen

Newcastle United have whittled down their shortlist for a new sporting director to two names with Crystal Palace’s Dougie Freedman competing with German Johannes Spors.

Telegraph Sport understands that a final decision will be made shortly with both men having supporters within the club. There were three names under consideration last week but Freedman and Spors have emerged as the front runners.

Freedman is the marginal favourite as he is already known to manager Eddie Howe and has a proven track record of recruitment in the Premier League, unearthing gems like Adam Wharton and Michael Olise from Blackburn Rovers and Reading.

It is thought the Scot is very keen on the job and impressed during the interview process with his ambitious vision for the club’s recruitment.

Sources say the Newcastle hierarchy were impressed with his straight-talking style in his interview and the onus during the search for a new sporting director has been to find someone who can improve the club’s recruitment process.

However, Spors is also much admired, interviewed well, and has more experience and a proven track record in the European market. The global sporting director of 777 Group emerged as a leading candidate during an extensive search to identify Dan Ashworth’s successor.

Johannes Spors
Spors has experience shopping in European markets - Getty Images/Simone Arveda

With Ashworth on gardening leave ahead of a move to Manchester United, Freedman has been a frontrunner to replace him at St James’ Park although there have been others under consideration with the process described as “comprehensive” by club sources.

Spors, 41, has worked as head of recruitment for RB Leipzig previously and is now working for 777, whose controversial attempted takeover of Everton is still awaiting Premier League approval and who own Genoa, Standard Liège, Hertha Berlin, Red Star in Paris and Vasco da Gama.

In an interview with Telegraph Sport in December, Spors discussed his career which started as an analyst at Hoffenheim with Ralf Rangnick before moving with him to Leipzig when the German club were in the second division.

His first appointment as a sporting director was at Vitesse Arnhem in Holland before moving to Genoa where he linked up with 777.

Freedman’s work at Palace has put him in the frame for the job, with his signings flourishing under Oliver Glasner and defeating Manchester United 4-0 this week. The 49-year-old, a former player and manager at Selhurst Park, returned as sporting director in 2017 and his signings have also included Marc Guehi from Chelsea, who has broken into the England squad.

Meanwhile, club sources have also played down reports that Newcastle have agreed a deal to sign Bournemouth centre back Lloyd Kelly. Although the 27-year-old is on a shortlist of defensive targets it is thought Fulham’s Tosin Adarabioyo is viewed as a more attractive free agent signing as he plays on the right side of defence.

Newcastle already have Dan Brun and Sven Botman to play on the left, while the growth of Lewis Hall at left back in the last few weeks has also lessened the need for a player who can play in that position as well as centre back.

Newcastle struggling being ‘richest club in the world’

Elsewhere today, Howe has criticised the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules (PSR) which are preventing Newcastle United flexing their financial muscle under their Saudi Arabian owners.

Newcastle have the richest owners in the world in the form of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, the largest sovereign wealth fund on the planet, but were unable to sign anyone in January because they were at risk of breaching PSR.

The club will also have to sell players Howe would like to keep this summer if they are going to invest in new players to try and raise the overall quality and depth of the squad.

Newcastle are determined to resist bids for star players Bruno Guimaraes and Alexander Isak, but they are also unable to pay the same sort of wages that the traditional Big Six clubs can offer for the same PSR reasons.

That inevitably makes Newcastle vulnerable and Howe argued Newcastle’s reality is far removed from the richest club in the world because the wealth of their owners has been made irrelevant under the current rules.

“Whenever you hear Newcastle mentioned externally, in the media, it’s always as the richest club in the world,” he said on Gary Neville’s Overlap podcast.

“That tag goes next to it and that has been difficult for us because it almost creates a pressure on us even though we are not living that reality. We’ve had to battle that and I think the players have handled that really, really well.

“Look, I’ve come from a club like Bournemouth which had to invest to grow so I’m the same train of thought as you [clubs should be able to spend what they want] if the owner has got the money and wants to invest and put money into the club in a safe way, why can’t they spend that money?

“That’s how football should work. We don’t want to see clubs get into any sort of financial problems long term but as long as that money is ring fenced they should be able to use it.”

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 3 months with unlimited access to our award-winning website, exclusive app, money-saving offers and more.