Newcastle have announced several changes at Academy level today, with Shola Ameobi returning to become the club’s loan coordinator and former Leeds boss Neil Redfearn being named manager of the U-23’s.
Ben Dawson, who took charge of our U-23’s last season, is now set to become the Academy’s ‘Head of Coaching’, with the club stating that he’ll be ‘looking after the professional development phase from under-17 to under-23 level.’.
Highly-rated coach Mark Atkinson has also left his role at Sunderland and has been named the club’s Assistant Head of Coaching, while also working with the coaching staff and players up to U-16 level according to NUFC.co.uk.
There’s also a new arrival at U-18 level, with Neil Winskill set to become the head coach 26 seasons after joining my club as a youth team player at the age of 16.
As for Ameobi, his new role will see him liaise with potential loan destinations and arrange suitable moves for several of our U-23 talents, weighing up the options available and monitoring both their progress and playing time during their temporary stints away from St James’ Park.
Here’s what Shola’s had to say after being officially named the club’s new loan coordinator today:
“It’s going to be exciting. It’s a club that has been a part of my life for over 20-25 years and I was still coming in and working as a coach. Being a part of that over the last year or two has been great but now I’m coming in full-time and into a role where, predominantly, you are trying to help players.
“I have been a player myself and understand how hard it can be, especially when you are out on loan. I think it’s important that we have someone in charge of that who can help the player and the club in terms of strategy, why we use the loan system and how we can benefit the player through that system.
“It’s working with players that you can help to facilitate everything they need to succeed. I’m a big believer in helping each and every player regardless if they are playing or not. We shouldn’t treat them any less just because they are out on loan and hopefully I can be a big plus for them going ahead.”
“The loan coordinator is about planning, organising and coordinating players that we’ve identified as a club who need to either go out on loan to develop them or because they need games as part of a first-team squad.
“Overall, it is to help maximise their development, especially when you are talking about players who are coming through and trying to break into the first team. I think it’s important that they get first-team football and understand what it takes to play at that level and really utilising the loan system to develop our players who are hopefully ready for the first-team.
“If not, we can help them to have a career in the game because I think the success of a club, the development side of a club, is making sure we produce players who stay in the game and have a career in football.
“For me, there are certain responsibilities that I see which are key in this role. The first is to implement an efficient and effective strategy of who is ready to go out on loan, where they should be going and what level they should be playing at.
“I think it’s very important to have that process in place before we send kids out on loan. Different players need different things and it’s important that we fit them in the right place for what they need to develop.
“Another big part of the job will be to liaise with the player. It will be important that these guys who are going out on loan don’t feel like they have just been left out on the limb.
“It’s important that they realise that they are still part of our club and they get the same time of thought put into them and their careers regardless of where they’re at as they play here. I think that’s a big part of my job to make sure that they get the right information and are given the best environment to succeed.”
“What we’ve seen over the past year is that we’ve got talent here and have players who teams want. The strategy for us, as a club, is to understand who needs that move or needs to stay here. We have got promising players but sending them out on loan is not always the right answer.
“Sometimes, mixing with the first-team and having that experience for six months might be more crucial for them at this stage of their development. It’s understanding that and getting it right before we decide who needs to go out on loan or not.
“My job is to make sure these players trust that we are doing the right thing by them and that they understand we are trying to help them. It’s understanding how a player feels when they go out on loan or when they feel like they are being neglected.
“I’ve been through that and I understand it can be hard, especially for younger players who may be on their first loan move or they are still developing in terms of their mental capacity. The psychological part of the game is important and it’s really about helping to assist them and monitoring where they are at as a person.
“I think this role will look at how they do on the pitch but also where their mindset is off the pitch, being able to talk to them and assist them in that side of the game. I think that’s key because I understand what it takes to go out and how to succeed and maybe not to succeed and how you deal with that side of it.
“For them to have someone to talk to and guide them through that is a really important part of my role and I can hopefully bring that to the job too.”
It’s not the announcement we’re all desperate to hear right now, but it is good to see the club making some changes at Academy level, with us needing to improve the number of young players that come through the ranks on Tyneside.