Paul Barber: Ashworth will take Brighton to 'next level'
Written by Simon Austin — September 27, 2018
BRIGHTON Chief Executive Paul Barber says the appointment of Technical Director Dan Ashworth will enable the club to reach the “next level”.
The Seagulls yesterday announced they had recruited the 47-year-old from the Football Association, where he has been a pivotal figure since 2012, first as Director of Elite Development and then, from late 2014, as Technical Director.
During his time with the FA, Ashworth has overseen the introduction of England's DNA, upgraded coaching provision, hired elite support staff across the age ranges and masterminded the opening of St George’s Park.
On his watch England Under-17s and U20s won their respective World Cup, the U19s won the Euros and the senior men reached the semi-finals of this summer’s World Cup.
After the appointment was announced, England boss Gareth Southgate said “I don’t think he (Ashworth) could have had a bigger impact.”
Now Barber, who has been with Brighton since 2012, believes the former FA Technical Director can make waves on the south coast. While the Seagulls are unable to compete with the big teams in terms of players transfer fees and wages, he believes they can be at the vanguard in terms of their Academy, recruitment and sports science.
“We know our budgets are never going to be at the level of the top six or eight clubs, we know we are never going to be able to attract the very very best talent that they can, so we’ve got to be smarter in a different way and give ourselves the best possible chance,” Barber told Talksport.
“It’s really the next stage for us of building the club’s future. We concentrated very hard on getting our infrastructure and facilities right and then our key people and of course the players to get promotion to the Premier League.
“Now we are looking to the future. 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.
“We want to take that to the next level, and we feel Dan has all the experience and qualifications necessary to help move us forward in that way. We’re delighted to have him and delighted that he’s joined us.
“Day to day, Dan will report to myself, alongside (manager) Chris Hughton. He will take direct responsibility for our overall player recruitment, Academy and sport medical area.
“One of the key things in a role like this is that you’ve got to really clearly define what the role is and isn’t. What it isn’t, is someone Chris reports to day to day on first-team matters. Chris is first-team manager, he has overall responsibility for making sure the team performs week in, week out.
“What Dan is going to do is oversee the club’s football development. We are trying to embed all the things that are important to us when it comes to the technical side of the club through one person.
"It’s impossible for me to do that, I’m not qualified to do that, neither is the chairman, and we want someone independent of the manager to maintain a consistency and bring through all those things to give us the best possible chance of staying in the Premier League.
"This is long term, not something we want to magic in the space of 12 or 18 months.
"What Dan has done at the FA he’s done over half a decade. The success has not happened overnight. He’s built that, worked hard, had a lot of great people around him and a lot of support from (chief executive) Martin Glenn and (chairman) Greg Clarke.
"We need to give him the time and support he’s had at the FA so we can achieve our objective. That will be over the long not the short term.”
Brighton have a Category 1 Academy that placed 45th in our Academy productivity rankings for 2016/17.
Barber, who was formerly Director of Marketing and Communications at the FA, said: “We are spending several million pounds a year in trying to develop our own players. With Brexit on the horizon, who knows where we are going to end up?
“It’s important for us to develop our own players and ideally English players where we can."
Ashworth will also be responsible for science and medical. At the FA, he oversaw a huge growth in the number of support staff working across the age groups in both the men's and women's games.
"We want to try and make sure we have the best possible availability of our players from a medical point of view," Barber said. "Understanding sports science, the facilities that give us the best chance of keeping players fit and able to perform for the first team when we’re paying them a lot of money is obviously important to us."
Finally, Brighton's first ever Technical Director will oversee the crucial area of player recruitment.
"(Head of Recruitment and Analysis) Paul Winstanley has been doing a fantastic job for us," Barber said. "That’s not going to change, but what we do have now is another senior technical voice who can add an opinion, look at players and give another expert input.
"We’ve got to learn to walk quickly before we start to jog and forget about running for a while. We’ve only just got to the Premier League, we’re well aware of where we’ve come from and where we were 20 years ago - almost out of business and out of the league.
"We’ve come back well, we’ve got a great infrastructure in place and a fantastic chairman who has put his money into the club in significant amounts.
"We totally respect that and want to do our best to build a sustainable future so we don’t have to rely so much on (chairman) Tony Bloom’s generosity. We’re not thinking about challenging the top six but first and foremost about our survival in this division.
"If we can progress each year on the last and start to redress the transfer spend with developing our own players and keeping the ones we have got fit and available then I think that’s progress."