The appointment of Steve Nickson as head of recruitment at Newcastle United seems a strange one.

Having been promoted from his role as a youth scout at the club, Nickson is said by the club to be spending the rest of the summer working alongside Lee Charnley and Rafa Benitez to help bring potential signings to the club.

Like Charnley, having been promoted from within, I can’t imagine that Nickson’s job title fully correlates with what his actual role within the transfer processes will be. At the moment I would still fully expect Rafa Benitez to be identifying the players and Lee Charnley being the man charged with persuading them to sign for Newcastle.

However, if it is true that Nickson is actually ‘the head of recruitment’, then given his lack of experience, minimal reputation and no exceptional signings to show for his track record so far, then that would worry me a little regarding the rest of the summer.

With Graham Carr leaving the club, it was originally thought that this was a key sign that full of control over transfers would be handed to Benitez. While Nickson obviously won’t have anywhere near the same amount of input as Carr, the role would not have been given to him just for the sake of it (I hope).

Having just returned from the Under 21s European Championships in Poland, it will be interesting to see what he found and if Newcastle can bring a few youngsters in who can actually add something to the first team immediately. Previous signings in that age group have included Toney, Ben el-Mhanni, Bigirimana, Findlay, Kemen, Abeid, Vuckic, Satka and Tozer. All players who have not ,or are yet to have, any positive impact on the first team squad. If Nickson is the one who has been responsible for bringing in some of these players, then he deserves some criticism. In my opinion, any young players of 19-21 that are signed from outside of the region that are not going straight into the first team squad are a complete waste of time, as they are simply blocking space for local players in the youth sides.

The Chronicle reported last night that Nickson had been responsible for the likes of Perez (despite recently reporting that Perez was a ‘HIT’ Graham Carr signing), Rolando Aarons and Kevin Mbabu. These three were described by the Chronicle after Kevin Mbabu’s debut against Chelsea in 2015….Lee Ryder wrote the trio should be regarded as ‘a fine hat-trick of sorts from Nickson by Newcastle fans’.

If this is the standard of scouting that is so highy praised, then there would be something wrong… turns out there was something wrong as Newcastle would go on to be relegated that season so not the best hat-trick!

I expect that Rafa would have had a plan A, B, C and D in every position at the end of the season, so if Newcastle are currently ‘looking’ or ‘scouting’ players now then I would find that worrying too. Let’s hope that Nickson’s first job this summer is to help Rafa bring in the players that HE wants, rather than identifying potential signings now.

We did get a few quotes from Rafa via the club website included in the announcement: “I’d like to congratulate Steve and welcome him to his new role with the club. Steve has done an excellent job in the scouting department at Under-21s level and I am very confident that he will bring his many strengths to this new role, improving and building on our First Team recruitment strategy, as well as that at all levels throughout the club.”

These quotes are often just a formality put out by the club that have to be said alongside announcements like this, so I don’t think we can read too much into any quotes given.

There has also been a lot of talk this summer about Newcastle not being able to compete transfer wise with the likes of Bournemouth, Watford, or Everton. The position of head of recruitment has taken on greater significance in the 21st century, so we can compare who is in the same position at other clubs.

The big clubs obviously have big names; Steve Rowley (Arsenal), Michael Emenalo (Chelsea), Jim Lawlor (Manchester United) and Txiki Begiristain (Manchester City), that goes without saying.

However, it’s the comparisons with teams that Newcastle United should be surrounding themselves with, that again worries me.

Tony Henry at West Ham has a proven record at the club and was previously with Everton. Nicky Hammond at West Brom (previously Reading) has a wealth of experience. Kevin Cruickshank at Stoke has a growing reputation in the Premier League.

Ross Wilson at Southampton has proven time and time again over the past few years that he knows what he is doing, previously on a learning curve at Falkirk, Watford and Huddersfield. Steve Walsh at Everton has been credited with being a big part of Leicester’s impossible title win. Even his replacement at Leicester, Eduardo Macia, comes via Valencia, Liverpool and Fiorentina.

Just like West Ham, Leicester, Southampton, Stoke and West Brom, I would be expecting Newcastle to be appointing someone with a proven track record. This is why the appointment seems strange, and well, underwhelming. I’m not convinced.

You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn

(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])



  • Thefootballerwhocouldfly

    The appointment within the club is of no surprise. Ashley doesn’t want to spend any money unless he has to. Rafa doesn’t want to leave (the fans) so will be dictated to with signings from reserves of PL/Championship teams along with bargains they can get from abroad. This summer expect to be underwhelmed!

    • Jezza

      I won’t be underwhelmed. I never expected anything.

  • Soldier

    His CV is hardly convincing

  • Steve

    Unbelievable. So negativity around this. How do you think all the other heads of recruitment started to build their reputations? They have to start somewhere. Let’s not forget a few years ago the media, including this site had their heads far up graham carrs back end. Look how that turned out.

    • HarryHype59

      This club needs someone proven in that role, not a rookie promoted on the cheap.

      • Jezza

        Cheap being the key word. Nothing will ever change with that fat parasite running our club.

    • Porciestreet

      Aye, where’s all the “In Carr we trust” mob gone now then…What a fickle bunch. Nee wonder the rest of th football world thinks we’re deluded.

  • HarryHype59

    I suppose the £20m plus “Marquee” signings are not coming then?

  • anyobrien

    Does the mag have anything positive to say about the toon…. Come on man this is getting tedious.

    • MichaelMaximusMoose

      id be interested to know anything positive about Newcastle in light of the current situation

      • hetonmag

        You have been banging on for a long time now about getting rid of Carr, he’s gone now and you are still not satisfied MM.

      • jamiet

        we woz just promoted m8

        • Jezza

          That was two months ago. Since then we have had complete inactivity in the transfer market while all our Premiership rivals have been steadily strengthening their squads.

      • anyobrien

        Ffs its the 2 of July this time next month I’ll be worried but for now let’s just relax.

    • Jonathan Drape-Comyn

      I promise you I will write something positive when something positive happens.

      • disqus_GFJ5SSXQ7o

        Pathetic

      • anyobrien

        Let’s hope you do I really do because this is getting boring.

      • anyobrien

        Good lad

  • Leazes Ender

    Well said Jonathan, it looks likely that this appointment was made to stifle Rafa not help him. I think they are trying to force Rafa out…. the ‘club statement’ wasn’t convincing as there wasn’t a hint of a Spanish accent at all.

    The timing of this appointment is crazy as it infers that Charnley cant negotiate by himself…. the Chronicle had everyone believing that Rafa was now in sole charge of recruitment this is not the case at all.

    Ryders comments are indeed ludicrous, and it certainly shows his definition of success is somewhat lacking in credibility.

    When players do start to arrive just ask yourself ‘is this a Rafa type player’….. if he’s still here.

    • MichaelMaximusMoose

      if the Fat Guy is trying to force Rafa out then everything`s going to plan

    • Jezza

      My thoughts exactly. I believe this guy has been promoted as part of an attempt to constructively dismiss Rafa in the same way Ashley did with Kevin Keegan in 08.

  • I feel like we could have brought someone with better reputation as well, however, as said the main reason here is for Rafa to have his say in picking first team targets and Nickson to suggest potential breakouts. I still believe we will get 2-3 quality signings and 3-4 young and potential talent through the door. We have a good core team that needs competition for places, more creativity and better finishing. I think that’s what Rafa and the staff are desperately looking to find, players who either can challenge key players for their starting positions and straight on first-team players.

  • Steve Smith

    He’s promoted to be a yes man. Is he Ashley’s or Rafa’s though?

    • Jezza

      One way or another I believe this appointment is a clear indication that Rafa’s days are numbered.

      • Albert Stubbins

        all manager days are numbered Jezza- the average length of time a manager lasts in the prem is about two years- if we can squeeze 4 out of Rafa i’ll be a happy man. How many manager have great relationships with the chairman? I can name two- possibly three in the entire league.

        • Jezza

          Yes, fair enough what you say is correct. Just to clarify though but, what I meant when I said Rafa’s days are numbered is that I don’t expect him to be NUFC manager come September.

          • Albert Stubbins

            if he’s not I’ll bear my backside in Fenwicks window- can’t say fairer than that mate. If he was going to go he’d have gone at the end of last season. It makes absolutely no sense in him leaving just after the season has started. Yes- the transfer window hasnt gone as planned so far but there’s still plenty of time to do good business. Expect at least another 4/5 signings before end of window- its a tough marketplace that’s all – Rafa knows this better than most I reckon.

          • Jezza

            Well I think Rafa was made promises by Ashley at the end of last season and that Ashley is in the process of breaking all those promises. I genuinely can not see NUFC making any decent signings this summer. In the end all I think they will spend will be what ever they can bring in from player sales. I also believe Ashley will be perfectly happy to see Rafa go and to reinstate his old mate who is available and has already got a track record of keeping Newcastle in the Premiership with no money to spend. That is why I don’t expect Rafa to be manager after the transfer window has closed.

  • Phil K

    Not impressed either.
    Wheres his success in the youth department ?

  • disqus_GFJ5SSXQ7o

    Yep, typical Mag write him off as useless rubbish on day 1 of appointment. Maybe Rafa asked for his appointment as he had been impressed by him? How do you know all your club insider knowledge?

    • Leazes Ender

      He’s been there for years diq

  • Oooh bobbi fleckman

    What’s the view on the new tea lady? I think it’s an Ashley appointment, she uses 99 tea bags not Yorkshire tea and the coffee is all Nescaf instant. I’m sure Rafa has a Tea lady from his network to serve té

    • Damon Horner

      In line to be promoted to Head of Office Housekeeping I heard, can’t believe they didn’t poach one from “Little Bournemouth”

      • Oooh bobbi fleckman

        lack of ambition, you couldn’t make it up could you?

    • Albert Stubbins

      How very dare she!! evidence if ever it were needed that more promises have been broken- I think he’ll walk after this one- or maybe its just a storm in a tea cup?

  • Mike

    thought Cashley promised money from the promotion? oh well

    • Jezza

      He promises a lot of things but as we all know he is not to be trusted.

  • wheyayeman

    Set of miserable conspiracy theorists on here as per! Give the bloke a chance to do his job before you rubbish his appointment FFS. Rafa welcomed him to the role and that’s good enough for me. Let’s wish him well because the next 2-3 weeks are vital – I couldn’t give a stuff if the appointment looks underwhelming, I just want this guy to do his job and help get some good deals completed.