Eddie Howe's sporting director preference as Dan Ashworth replacement chase reaches final stage

Newcastle United boss Eddie Howe is hopeful of working with a new sporting director before the summer transfer window as the search for Dan Ashworth's replacement edges towards a conclusion.

The Magpies' summer plans are being drawn up between Howe, his nephew Andy - who currently works as assistant head of first-team recruitment - and chief scout Steve Nickson. Although it is looking more and more likely Howe will get his summer wish as the recruitment process draws to a close.

A number of highly-rated candidates have been assessed since Ashworth signalled his intentions to depart for Manchester United earlier this season. Renowned consultants Odgers Berndtson were tasked with leading the search for his replacement and subsequently identified a handful of serious contenders.

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Chronicle Live understands Brentford director of football Phil Giles, who grew up supporting Newcastle, was considered for the role in the early stages. In recent weeks the likes of ex-Monaco chief Paul Mitchell and former Newcastle star Hugo Viana have been touted as possible arrivals.

Now it is Crystal Palace's Dougie Freedman who leads the race after impressing Toon chiefs in recent weeks. The former Eagles manager, now the club's sporting director, has significant Premier League experience and an exciting transfer track record in south east London.

Freedman has played a key role in deals to bring the likes of Eberechi Eze, Michael Olise, Adam Wharton and Marc Guehi to Selhurst Park in recent seasons. Similar success in the transfer market should he take a new role on Tyneside and Newcastle would be in a strong position heading into the 2024/25 campaign.

Asked if he hopes for an appointment before the start of the summer window, Howe said: "Ideally. With any transfer window, whether it's January or the summer, if you can be best prepared with the best tools you'll have better results.

"So yes, but I don't think it's absolutely imperative because we will work regardless within the same systems and the same way we've always done. If you look back at our transfer windows since I've been here, I've been pleased."

The Newcastle boss went on to insist he has not played any part in the hiring process, despite taking a keen interest in who he may be working with in the St James' Park boardroom.

"I’ve spoken to respective people involved in the process," Howe added. "I haven’t been involved in any of the early stages. I’m coming in from the side, so it’s difficult for me to give an opinion. But I have been consulted and I think that’s important."