Get your daily update and weekly newsletter by signing up today!


Lee Charnley and Mike Ashley promises on local young talent now shown to be laughable

10 months ago

Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley have time and again repeatedly made claims about developing young talent at Newcastle United.

The reality proved somewhat different.

The dynamic duo making promises and claims (see below) that are so transparent and laughable in the extreme.

I have recently read more claims, especially in the local media, that if / when the takeover doesn’t happen, a major part of the Mike Ashley ‘plan’ would centre around the Academy developing more and more players.

The reality is that every single club dreams of regularly bringing through homegrown players into the first team.

The difference between Mike Ashley’s Newcastle and other clubs, is that they actually do put a proper plan in place, with the credible resources to give it a chance of succeeding.

It was of course a central part of Rafa Benitez’ demands before he would agree to stay, that there would at last be a properly resourced Academy set-up, as well as the state of the art training complex originally promised by Mike Ashley in 2013 and described back then as ‘essential’ if Newcastle United were going to be able to compete.

Mike Ashley supposedly dreams of Newcastle United tapping into and developing local talent that then regularly feeds into the first team.

The NUFC owner time after time naming other clubs that he wants to replicate in terms of producing their own conveyor belt of locally produced talent BUT at the same time refusing to commit in any way to a properly funded Academy and facilities and top coaching that could potentially actually achieve that ‘dream’ of Ashley.

Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley talk about a conveyor belt of local talent and providing backing and a route into the NUFC first team.

This though is the reality, these are the Newcastle United Under 23s players who have started most games this season in the reserve league:

(9) Ludwig Francillette – French defender joined Newcastle in August 2019 at the age of 20 after a trial.

(8) Yannick Toure – Born in Senegal, the striker joined as an 18 year old in August 2018, having previously been with Swiss club Young Boys.

(7) Stan Flaherty – Released by Arsenal, the winger joined Newcastle aged 18 in January 2020 after a trial.

(5) Bradley Cross – The South African defender at age 19 had a trial and then signed for Newcastle in October 2020.

(5) Rodrigo Vilca – Signed at the age of 21, the Peruvian attacking midfielder was signed from Deportivo Municipal.

(5) Elliot Anderson – Local midfielder who joined the under nine age group first at Newcastle, now 17 years old.

(5) Niall Brookwell – The midfielder joining Newcastle last year when Liverpool released him.

(4) Kyle Scott – Born in Bath, the then 21 year old midfielder signed for Newcastle in July 2019 after Chelsea released him.

(4) Rosaire Longelo – Originally from DR Congo, the 21 year old joined Newcastle last year after West Ham released him.

Recently, Newcastle United Under 23s also had another couple of players on trial and playing in reserve games – Scott Wara – a 21 year old defender released by Stoke City, as well as Dion McGhee – a 20 year old midfielder released by Man Utd.

Concentrating on local young talent and providing a route through to the first team? Really?

Good luck to all the above players BUT reality is that Newcastle continue to refuse under Mike Ashley to properly resource the youth set-up. It is by sheer fluke that a player with natural ability such as Elliot Anderson might stand a chance of coming through, despite the youth set-up, not because of it.

It seems incredible that the basic plan now appears to be simply filling up the shirts of the Under 23s with players who have failed to progress at other clubs, older players who with the best will in the world are never going to be Premier League players.

What is the point of bringing them in and playing them ahead of young players who have been with the club for years and gone through the age groups, what kind of message does that send out.

If by bringing in these older players who haven’t made it elsewhere, it led to a far higher standard and success on the pitch, then maybe there is a point.

However, these are the current league tables, the Under 23s / reserves in two divisions and Newcastle United in the second division, it hardly raises the spirits does it?

It very definitely doesn’t say, look at the great job Mike Ashley is doing in bringing through homegrown players…

Yes, Newcastle’s Under 23s /reserves at the very bottom of the second division, a division made up mainly of Championship clubs and the likes of League One Sunderland (who beat NUFC 4-0 this season).

What is the point?

Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce appear to be bringing in a load of player from elsewhere at that kind of 18-21 age group, knowing that there is no chance of any of them ending up playing regular first team football.

What it also does is stifle any real chance of younger players coming through AND it means the young players at NUFC who hope to then move into regular under 23 football to progress.

It is ironic then to look at a club like Manchester City, with their massive investment, including in young players, where you would automatically assume they’ll be buying in all their young players from elsewhere.

The reality though is, Man City in November won the FA Youth Cup final, beating Chelsea 3-2.

Seven of their starting eleven for Man City were from Greater Manchester and have already been at the club for 10 years or more.

Mike Ashley speaking to Sky Sports – August 2017:

“For me, I want to build Newcastle from the bottom up.

“If I had my dream, I want to start with the Academy. I want to be able to produce more players like Andy Carrolls.

“I look at Southampton and the players they have produced from their academy and I believe that could be done, not like Leicester.

“Making that a big priority of the football club and it needs to be separate from the main football club.

“Why don’t you put some money in the North East, a real hotbed of a football academy and this would be my dream that once every two years we put in an academy player, so it is sort of a mantra of the club.

“We give our academy players coming through the first opportunity. Put them in the cup games.”

Newcastle United Fans Forum minutes from meeting on 24 September 2018:

Asked about what was happening with Newcastle United’s Academy and calls for more funding, particularly relevant in light of Mike Ashley’s pledge/priority 13 months earlier (see above) on Sky Sports.

Mike Ashley/Newcastle United replying:

‘The club believes the debate around Academies is intensifying.

‘There is a belief that it is becoming more and more difficult to bring through young talent, with managers generally reluctant to call on Academy players in the Premier League.

‘The club also believes the current rules make it easier for the big five or six teams in the country to secure the best players from all other Academy systems.’

Michael Walker article on The Athletic including talking to Lee Charnley – 11 October 2019:

Lee Charnley: “To see Sean [Longstaff] do it last year and Matty get his opportunity — and he looked like it was his 25th or 50th game, not his first — was so pleasing for everyone. I think it was fantastic and we’ve seen the public reaction, not just the Newcastle public. I saw what Gary Neville tweeted after the game (he praised the boys and said their performance made him happy).”

Charnley says: “We want to be the best academy in the region. Our vision is we want local boys to look at it and think it’s not going to be full of boys from London, Manchester or abroad. Between nine and 16, it will be an academy with boys predominantly from the local area. There will be exceptions but generally, it will be local.

“Other clubs may move boys around the country, sign them at 12, 13, 14, move their education. We’re not doing that. Consciously, we have made a decision not to do that and to give local boys the opportunity.”

Charnley knows there will be scepticism. Frugality will be an accusation.

“People say it might be because of this reason [no wanting to spend money] or that but it’s not. It’s a conscious decision to get local boys because we want local boys to see what’s happened with Paul [Dummett], Sean and Matty, and say that’s who they want to be.

“They’ll know, if they’re good enough and work hard enough, they’ll get an opportunity at their hometown club. That’s what we want.”

Charnley says the club’s “ultimate aim is that one player every year comes through our system and ends up in our first-team squad. That is what we want to achieve.”


If you would like to feature on The Mag, submit your article to [email protected]

Have your say

© 2021 The Mag. All Rights Reserved. Design & Build by Mediaworks