Newcastle close in on Dan Ashworth as they prepare for key Everton game

Lithuania v England – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying – Group F – LFF Stadium
(Image credit: Mike Egerton)

Newcastle’s pursuit of Dan Ashworth took a significant turn on Monday when Brighton announced the departure of their technical director for an unnamed Premier League rival.

The Magpies, who identified Ashworth as a leading contender for a director of football role at St James’ Park after Amanda Staveley’s consortium completed its takeover in October last year, are understood to be closing in on his appointment following talks last month.

Brighton confirmed the former FA technical director was leaving the Seagulls “to take a similar role at another Premier League club” but Newcastle were remaining tight-lipped on Monday.

Brighton's departing technical director Dan Ashworth has been linked with a similar role at Newcastle

Brighton’s departing technical director Dan Ashworth has been linked with a similar role at Newcastle (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Ashworth’s recruitment would follow the arrivals of January signings Kieran Trippier, Chris Wood, Bruno Guimaraes, Dan Burn and Matt Targett, who could all feature in Tuesday night’s showdown with an Everton side that have been dragged into the relegation fight.

However, it would not offset the disappointment of coach Eddie Howe’s revelation on the eve of the game that leading scorer Callum Wilson is unlikely to play against until the last few matches of the season.

The 29-year-old, who has scored six goals far this season, was expected to be sidelined for around eight weeks by the calf injury he suffered during the 1-1 draw with Manchester United on December 27.

However, Howe said: “It’s been slow progress for him since the initial injury. He was recently on crutches – I think he’s come off those crutches now and is walking normally, which is a big step.

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“But you can see by that update that I’m giving you it’s quite slow, so we all wish Callum to come back as quickly as possible, but when he comes back, he’s got to be fit and ready to give his best, so we’re helping him with that, day to day.

“But I don’t think it’s going to be short-term. Hopefully he can make the last few games of the season and really help us in the key moment.”

Wilson’s absence will come as a huge blow to the relegation-threatened Magpies, who invested £25million of their £90m January spending spree in Burnley frontman Chris Wood but failed in their attempts to further boost their firepower as their pursuit of Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard and Stade de Reims’ Hugo Ekitike came to nothing.

Howe added: “He’s gone away, he’s having intense treatment. We’re trying to give him the best care that we can as a football club.

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“I’ll probably be better updating you further down the line as to a return date, but at the moment, that’s unclear.”

In the meantime, the Magpies will run out against Frank Lampard’s men sitting 19th in the table but just a point off safety, although Everton’s 4-1 FA Cup fourth-round win over Brentford on Saturday underlines the difficulty of the task ahead.

Howe said: “I fully respect Frank and know him well and I think he’s an outstanding manager.

“They have a strong management team and they have a strong team on the pitch, so we know we’re going to have to be, as always in every Premier League game, at our very best to win.”

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