For years, Newcastle United have struggled to bring talent through their youth system. This is not something that's only been associated with current owner, Mike Ashley. This stretches back even further than Ashley's nightmare-ridden fourteen year spell on Tyneside.
There have perhaps been far too many examples of players being released far too soon and going on to establish themselves at a different club. Of course, it is not always the fault of Newcastle United, but in some cases there have been some very questionable decisions. The club announced the release/retained list for their U-23 side earlier this month, with a few surprising names included. Ludwig Francillette, Owen Bailey and Yannick Touré were among those to be released by the club. Francillette raised the most eyebrows, with the defender putting in some eye-catching performances since joining the club.
The names of Adam Armstrong and Ivan Toney will always be a "What if" for Newcastle United. The latter will be facing his former club after gaining promotion with Brentford last season. The former Newcastle pair scored an impressive 62 goals between them last season, sparking further debates on social media whether the club should have kept them on Tyneside. There are more examples of Newcastle perhaps being too hasty when it comes to releasing their younger stars. L'ubomír Šatka is another name that will be familiar to some Newcastle United supporters, the defender recently featured for Slovakia in Euro 2020. Šatka currently plays for Lech Poznan following his release from Newcastle United. The 25-year-old featured for Poznan in the Europa League last season.
Kevin Mbabu is another name that will leave a sour taste in the mouths of Newcastle United supporters. Mbabu only appeared for five times for Newcastle during his five years on Tyneside. The Switzerland international has continued to prove Newcastle wrong, in fact, he uses his disappointing time at the club as motivation to do better. Mbabu is now impressing for Bundesliga side, Wolfsburg.
Dan Barlaser is another who had begun to impress at Newcastle. The midfielder caught the eye in pre-season, ahead of the 19/20 campaign. Instead of being given a much deserved chance to shine in the first team, the midfielder was sold to Rotherham United.
Of course, every club will have similar stories. However, Newcastle seem to have a lot more than most clubs. Former goalkeeper, Steve Harper, has taken caretaker charge of the academy and you would have to say he is the right man to turn things around. There's a real problem at Newcastle United, and it stems from the very top of the club. In his 14 years as owner, Mike Ashley has instilled a losing culture at the club, a defeatist culture that is poisonous, and difficult to change.
After catching the eye of Steve Bruce, Elliot Anderson has barely had a look in at first team level. Anderson made his first team debut against Arsenal in January, he has made the match day squad on a number of occasions but has not featured since. The youngster continued to impress at youth team level. The ridiculous situation with Matty Longstaff will no doubt be in the back of academy players' minds. Longstaff signed a new contract last summer after breaking through to the first team in spectacular style. Last season was a complete write-off for Longstaff who was not afforded many chances by Bruce. It is now looking increasingly likely that Longstaff will leave the club this summer, due to his lack of playing time.
Former manager, Rafael Benitez wanted to change the poisonous culture within the academy, it was one of Benitez's priorities. It was very refreshing, as a number of managers before Benitez weren't overly interested in the development of academy players. There have been slight improvements, but nothing major. The emergence of Anderson, Kell Watts and Tom Allan confirm that slight improvement.
A club with an uninterested owner sends the wrong message throughout the club. It trickles all the way through, negativity breeds more negativity, and there have been 14 years of it. The facilities at Newcastle are well publicised, they are outdated and certainly do not meet the standards of as Premier League club. In fact, it wouldn't be wrong to say that the majority of Championship clubs have better facilities. One of the most frustrating parts of all this is, Ashley is a good businessman. Investing in academy, training facilities and developing players would save money in the long term. More player would be ready for the first team, which would mean less money would need to be spent on transfers.
What hope do academy players have when they look at what has happened to previous players? It certainly won't fill them with confidence that they will be given a chance to impress. Investment is desperately needed in all areas of the club, especially the academy and training facilities. State of mind is important to any player, going to work in below par facilities sets the standard, and Newcastle's standards are disgustingly low, and are a reflection of 14 years of lack of investment and care.
Newcastle will continue to struggle from top to bottom if nothing changes. It is a club that has been crumbling for years, and the current state of the academy is a prime example of that.