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Six things the new owners need to do at Newcastle United

After 14 years, the Mike Ashley era at St James’ Park is over. The new owners may come with extremely deep pockets but there is much to sort out at Newcastle - and not just on the pitch.

Mike Ashley was long criticised by the Toon Army for a perceived lack of ambition and investment in the club; something the new Saudi-led owners say they have no intention of continuing.
So, what should be on the new owners' to-do list? Planet Sport identifies six things they need to address.

Replace the manager

First and foremost, the replacement of Steve Bruce in the dugout is how the new owners put their first stamp on the club. The Magpies' targets during Bruce's reign have been primarily based around avoiding relegation from the top flight, which has been achieved, but ambitions are now somewhat loftier.

While he is a dependable character, Bruce does not have the tactical nous of a world-class manager, nor does he have the pulling power to interest the world's elite players.

At this moment in time, Newcastle are unlikely to be able to entice the likes of Jose MourinhoJurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola away from their current gainful employment. More realistic possibilities include Steven Gerrard, Eddie Howe and Antonio Conte.

Sign a defender or a goalkeeper

The Magpies sit 19th in the Premier League, having shipped 16 goals in their opening seven matches, which is the joint-most in the top flight. The need, therefore, for a signing or two to shore up the back line is quite clear.
That may need to be a central defender, or a goalkeeper, and while the club is not yet in a position to attract top-level talent, there is certainly the possibility of a young hotshot in either of those positions arriving on Tyneside in January.

Marseille's Duje Caleta-Car or Lille's Sven Botman, both of whom attracted interest from Liverpool last year, are options in central defence if they are willing to buy into the new direction. Between the sticks, could they convince Porto to part with Diogo Costa, or perhaps take a look at Manchester City's Gavin Bazunu, currently on loan at Portsmouth?

Overhaul the corporate structure

One of the biggest criticisms of Ashley's reign from the Toon Army was the lack of transparency and accountability, with Bruce often left to face questions he should not have had to. Financier Amanda Staveley, who fronted the consortium, has declared her strong belief in changing this process, making the club more open and accessible.
A director of football is a necessity to provide clear direction in the transfer market and ensure that the coaching staff and the ownership have a common denominator. Meanwhile, an approachable CEO to represent the board will stave off any accusations about the owners being shady or unwilling to submit to scrutiny.
Any prospective CEO would undoubtedly face questions about the controversies of the takeover, especially where the PIF is concerned, but as long as he or she can prove themselves as a representative of the board to the not inconsiderable Magpies fanbase, bridges can begin to be built almost immediately.

Make the academy more productive

Just like any fanbase, Newcastle fans are proud of where they come from. A local player developing through the academy and running out onto the St James' Park turf to make their debut in the club's first Champions League match would be the stuff of Toon Army dreams.
If there is a solid further way to endear themselves to the fanbase, the new owners could do a lot worse than investing in the academy and player development to ensure that young Geordie talent can flourish and progress.
Quite apart from the obvious feelgood benefits, doing this would also have positive implications for the owners, in that they wouldn't have to keep shelling out for expensive signings.

Redevelop St James' Park

Ashley's takeover in 2007 kiboshed a proposed expansion of St James' Park to 60,000 seats, and there has been no increase in capacity of the stadium since 2000. In that time, 16 of the Magpies' 19 fellow Premier League clubs have either redeveloped their existing homes or built entirely new stadia.
While St James' is hardly in a state of disrepair, a facelift would, among other things, permit the sale of thousands more seats, bringing in even more revenue for the Magpies. The stadium currently has a distinctive lop-sided appearance, with the Milburn and Leazes Stands jutting above the Gallowgate End and the East Stand.
Expansion of the latter two stands to create a continuous stadium bowl at the same level would add around 14,000 seats, taking the stadium's capacity to more than 66,000. If nothing else, imagine the hospitality and corporate opportunities!

Invest in the local community

In the north-east at the last count, the percentage of child poverty stood at 37%. It represents the second-highest figure of any region in the UK, behind only London, and the fastest-growing across the country as a whole.
Staveley and her consortium have underlined their intentions to invest in the city as a whole, taking inspiration from Sheikh Mansour's ownership of Manchester City and subsequent financing of the local area.
They can hardly be expected to solve all the region's problems in one fell swoop. However, doubling down on the work of the Newcastle United Foundation to create many more opportunities and better the infrastructure across the city region would strengthen their bond with the club's supporters, who are fiercely proud of their city.

READ MORE: Six Newcastle managers who were worse than Steve Bruce

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