Published Thu 27 Jul 2023, 15:21

Dan Ashworth spearheads his first strategic alliance: NUFC are now affiliated with Larne FC

Dan Ashworth spearheads his first strategic alliance: NUFC are now affiliated with Larne FC
Serena Taylor | Newcastle United

Newcastle United have today announced a strategic partnership with NIFL Irish Premiership champions Larne FC, which will see the clubs collaborating closely on youth development.

NUFC and Larne will work together to "explore best practices as they develop their respective talent pathways", and will share knowledge across "youth coaching, talent scouting, and player recruitment".

There is also the potential for youngsters to move between the clubs (in either direction) and there is an expectation that both women's sides will work together as well. Larne have just been promoted to the top tier of Northern Irish women's football, with Newcastle now the first fully professional team in the third tier of English women's football after their own promotion at the end of the 2022/23 campaign.

This marks the first official partnership of this kind since sporting director Dan Ashworth joined the Magpies from Brighton, where he established strong links with clubs in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Ashworth outlined his reasons for making the deal on the official website:

"We are very pleased to be working alongside Larne Football Club as we develop and expand our talent pathway.

I have been hugely impressed by Kenny Bruce and his team, and this will be a great opportunity to share best practice and innovations that will benefit both clubs.

Our next generations of talent will only support and sustain both clubs' future successes and we look forward to supporting one another on our respective journeys."

And Larne owner Kenny Bruce commented:

"We have been involved in extremely positive discussions with Newcastle United for some time over a strategic working relationship, which we feel can be mutually beneficial.

At Larne, we have made no secret that our aim is to work with the top young talent on the island of Ireland and we have been making changes to our Academy at all levels, as we seek to make this aim a reality.

Newcastle United, particularly through Dan Ashworth, has recognised the strides we have made within our structure and the emphasis we are placing on developing the best young players.

At all levels, it is clear both Newcastle United and Larne are clubs moving in the right direction and we feel this affiliation will play a huge part in helping to grow that momentum.

We are very excited to see what the future holds for players, coaches and staff as we work together over the coming weeks, months and years."

For extra context, here are a few recent comments from Brighton's chief executive, Paul Barber, about why the club is so big on scouting in Ireland, an operation that Ashworth established during his time with the Seagulls:

"It's a really good football country with a lot of talented youngsters. We have a great scouting network in place and it has worked very well for us.

Not only is he (Evan Ferguson) a fantastic young footballer, he is also a really mature young man. He is confident but humble and respectful, has his feet on the ground and is still the same lad now that he was six months ago before he had scored a goal for us.

Those good values come from his family, plus the way he is treated here, but mostly from him. He has a great future ahead of him.”

If this partnership helps us uncover our very own Ferguson in the next few years, then we're all for it!

(There are also rumours that NUFC will soon announce a formal agreement with Dutch Eredivisie side Feyenoord after new signing Yankuba Minteh joined them on a season-long loan last month.)

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