“Darren Eales is one of the best hires I’ve made in my career and the strength and success of Atlanta United to date is a credit to him not only as a leader, but as a passionate footballer.”Arthur Blank Atlanta United Owner and American Business mogul.

Who is Darren Eales? For one, he is the new CEO of Newcastle United having previously worked in a number of roles within football administration. A former Ivy League Player of the Season himself for Brown University, he brings a lifelong love of football along with his professional abilities to his new role.

Eales has an extensive history of experience working within football administration, initially hired by West Bromwich Albion as a “legal consultant”, he continued to work with the Midlands club and undertook a number of roles, including “Chairman of Sporting Club Albion” a community multi-sport project. He then moved on to Spurs and helped facilitate their move to a new training complex and was involved in the world record sale of Gareth Bale and bringing ex-Mag De Andre Yedlin to London. Then in 2014, two years before their first competitive fixture, Darren Eales moved to Atlanta.

He is often stated as Arthur Blanks’s first employee with the formation of his MLS side. His hiring was outlined with the immediate jobs of setting up the youth academy, deciding on a training ground, hiring backroom staff and even naming the side. His role at Atlanta has spanned different areas, not all of which he will have to repeat at United but there will be a use for almost all of his expertise.

An area that will likely need immediate input is the development of a new training ground. Eales has worked on the development of both Atlantas training facilities and was involved in Spurs’ move to their base at Bulls Cross. We’ve seen the likes of the aforementioned Spurs, Leicester, Man City, Burnley and Liverpool all develop entire new complexes and clubs like Wolves, Brighton and Villa spend large sums to update their training facilities at the same time. By all accounts, we have started on the redevelopment and adaption of Darsley Park but Eales’s expertise in delivering the finer points will be vital, as will his experience in the proposed new development.

You could argue there is a clean slate for Darren Eales to work on, in terms of building Newcastle United into the club desired by the new owners and supporters. It’s been a well-documented barren spell in terms of major trophies, the club had a skeletal infrastructure at best less than a year ago but does have the foundations of an established historic club with as strong an identity as any in the country.

In an interview with The Disruptor Studio Eales outlines an experience adapting and learning from fellow sides. He also outlines the vision of Atlanta’s fan involvement from before the club was named and links this involvement to the early marketing. He focuses heavily on targeting the “hardcore” “avid” fan-base, a task that is already done on Tyneside.

Whilst he will not have to literally build a club from scratch, he will likely have a wide-ranging remit to pull the club up to the standard of established European giants.

Eales cites Arthur Blank as a mentor of his and his boss whilst at Atlanta United. During an interview with Alex Manby on the Football Business Podcast, Darren cites an approach to fan engagement long since forgotten (prior to 07/10/2021); “Listen and respond”.

In this clip, Darren speaks about his approach to fan engagement and the need to interact with fans whilst leaving his own biases or ideas separate, in order to give fans what they want. He uses the example of Atlanta United’s name, which caused some initial concerns from the League.

He outlines explaining his stance to the league and ultimately he, and the Atlanta United fans won over. He promotes an image of engagement on a level not often seen by a CEO at Football Clubs and at stark contrast with the previous incumbent of his role. Given the starvation of contact from the club throughout the previous years, I think fans have welcomed any communication from the club recently, and to have a CEO who promotes this at the forefront of his ethos will be akin to providing a slap-up dinner to a previously emaciated fan-base.

Atlanta started like a train and only went ahead and picked up steam, the club began playing MLS in 2017 and won the Eastern Conference and Supporters Shield in 2018. The club had stars like Josef Martinez and our own Miggy Almiron, playing in front of packed crowds and upsetting the established order.

As outlined on Pod On The Tyne and their latest episode, with journalist Felipe Cardenas, things did not continue in such a positive fashion. Having lost their manager in Gerardo “Tata” Martino, Darren Eales backed the recruitment of recent managers has not proved as successful, the once characteristic football has been diluted through a churn of hirings.

The side may have lost its seat at the top of the MLS pile but I don’t think it can be overstated how much of a role Darren Eales played in forming an entire club. His talents and experience working within every aspect of club development will likely be crucial and perhaps in a slightly more focused role, he could prove even more successful than his wide-ranging scope in America.

It’s clear that the club will be infinitely more engaged with the supporters, fan opinions and views are likely to be taken into consideration and acted upon and we have hired a CEO who has built a club from nothing to win their highest domestic honour.

Can he repeat the feat? We shall see, but if nothing else he does have a history with black and white stripes!

Jamie McGovern @JWMFootball