Dan Ashworth resigns as Brighton Technical Director
Written by Simon Austin — February 7, 2022
DAN ASHWORTH has resigned as Technical Director at Brighton and is now expected to take up the same position with Newcastle United.
The 50-year-old joined the Seagulls in September 2018 from the Football Association and is regarded as one of English football’s finest strategists and leaders. During his time at West Brom, from 2004 to 2012, he helped to cement the side in the Premier League courtesy of clever recruitment and development of the backroom staff and Academy.
During six years with the FA, first as Director of Elite Development and then Technical Director, he oversaw the introduction of the England DNA, upgraded coaching provision, hired elite support staff across the age ranges and masterminded the opening of St George’s Park.
On his watch the Under-17s and U20s won their respective World Cup, the U19s won the Euros and the senior men - led by Gareth Southgate, whom he had appointed - reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup. These were also the foundations for England reaching the final of last summer’s Euros.
When Ashworth joined Brighton, Chief Executive Paul Barber said: “We know our budgets are never going to be at the level of the top six or eight clubs, so we’ve got to be smarter in a different way.
“We want to develop more of our own young players through the Academy, which we are investing a huge amount of money in each year, and we want to improve our medical and sports science, which is already excellent.”
Ashworth certainly delivered on those targets. After making the controversial decision to sack Chris Hughton, he appointed Graham Potter as Head Coach and the Seagulls have since gone to the next level.
They are currently ninth in the Premier League and have been widely praised for their attractive style of football. Furthermore, they fourth in the Premier League for homegrown minutes (19.3%), behind only Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United and have also been innovators in performance, becoming the first side to introduce a performance wellbeing department.
BRIGHTON BEGIN SEARCH FOR REPLACEMENT
Former Scotland international David Weir, who was promoted from Loans Manager to Assistant Technical Director by Brighton last month, will now step in for Ashworth as acting Technical Director. Meanwhile, the club will conduct a recruitment process for a permanent replacement and "hope David will be a candidate in this process.”
Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive Paul Barber said: “On a personal level, I will be sad to see Dan leave as we’d developed a close day-to-day working relationship. Dan’s been an excellent colleague and has become a good friend as well. I wish Dan and his family well for the future.
“However, as is the case with all top-quality people in any industry, we are always conscious of the risk of losing key staff to a rival. With that in mind, we always put in place contingencies and succession plans that are designed to minimise the impact on our club.
“As such, our Assistant Technical Director, David Weir, will now step up and assume the role of acting Technical Director. He is someone with an excellent knowledge of the role and of our club’s culture from working side-by-side with Dan.
“As previously, we will conduct a search process for the role of Technical Director, as it is only right to do so. We anticipate a lot of high-calibre applicants but we also fully expect and hope David will be a candidate in this process.”
Chairman Tony Bloom added, “We are extremely disappointed that Dan will no longer be our Technical Director. He leaves a significant legacy in place and for that we are greatly appreciative.
“Dan’s done an outstanding job and helped build on the progress the club had already made across all of our technical areas. I wish Dan and his family well for the future.”
Brighton said Ashworth’s handover would be completed by the end of this week.
WHAT DOES A TECHNICAL DIRECTOR DO?
Newcastle United have not had a Technical Director since Joe Kinnear in 2013/14 (his title was Director of Football). This has marked them out in the minority in the Premier League.
Currently, only five teams in the top flight do not have this position (or equivalent) - Burnley, Chelsea, Everton, Newcastle and West Ham. For context, Director Marina Granovskaia and Technical and Performance Advisor Petr Cech do fulfil many, if not all, of the Technical Director duties at Chelsea, while Everton are expected to appoint a replacement for Marcel Brands as Sporting Director. Former midfielder Tim Cahill has been tipped for the role.
Ashworth appeared as a guest on Episode #20 of the TGG Podcast, which you can listen to below, and explained his role.
He said: “I sit in the middle of a wheel and my job is to bring together seven departments, connecting those spokes. And when one of those head of departments leaves, you keep the wheel spinning and find a replacement.
“The seven department heads are: Graham Potter, the first-team men’s Head Coach; Hope Powell, who runs our senior women’s team in the WSL; Paul Winstanley, Head of Recruitment; John Morling, Head of Academy; Adam Brett, Head of Medical Services; David Weir, who is in charge of our loans programme’ and James Bell, who is in charge of our psychology and mental wellbeing.
“Historically, the one who is most likely to leave is the first-team manager. The average lifespan for them in this country is around 14 months.
“The principle for a Technical Director, in my opinion, is to look after the medium to long term interests of the football club. It’s not about short-term 'get a result against Liverpool tomorrow', it’s to try and make sure the club is set up in a way that those other departments supplement and help Hope and Graham, but are also there for the longer-term benefits of the club.
“Another thing that’s important is the connection from the boardroom onto the pitch. Every club has a CEO and chairman - and budgets, philosophies and principles - and it’s really important we get that across, whether it’s club values or maximising the budget and making sure we’re spending the money in the right way.”
Newcastle's new Saudi-backed owners appointed Nicky Hammond as a transfer consultant on a short-term contract in December.
CLUBS WITH TECHNICAL DIRECTOR (OR EQUIVALENT)
- Arsenal: Technical Director - Edu
- Aston Villa: Sporting Director - Johan Lange
- Brentford: Director of Football - Phil Giles
- Brighton: Acting Technical Director - David Weir
- Burnley: Technical Director - NONE
- Chelsea: NONE (Petr Cech is Technical and Performance Advisor & Marina Granovskaia is Director)
- Crystal Palace: Sporting Director - Dougie Freedman
- Everton: Director of Football - NONE
- Leeds United: Director of Football - Victor Orta
- Leicester City: Director of Football - Jon Rudkin
- Liverpool: Sporting Director - Michael Edwards
- Manchester City: Director of Football - Txiki Begiristain
- Manchester United: Football Director- John Murtough
- Newcastle United: NONE
- Norwich City: Sporting Director - Stuart Webber
- Southampton: Director of Football Operations - Matt Crocker
- Tottenham: Managing Director, Football - Fabio Paratici
- Watford: Sporting Director - Cristiano Giaretta
- West Ham: NONE
- Wolves: Technical Director - Scott Sellars