What Dan Ashworth brings to Brighton & Hove Albion
In a week dominated by Jose Mourinho versus Paul Pogba, the news that Dan Ashworth quit his role with the FA to join Brighton & Hove Albion has flown under the radar.
While perhaps not worthy of considerable attention on the world stage, for Brighton, it represents a major coup. Securing Ashworth as their technical director has many benefits.
Primarily, it offers future proofing for the Seagulls. The Premier League has been slow to adopt the director of football model, but it is now arriving in force. Indeed, there are plenty already in place across the country. Among the most notable, Txiki Begiristain oversees Manchester City.
At some clubs, the off-field decision makers are as famous as the manager. Consider Manchester United's Ed Woodward. Rarely a day goes by without his name in the headlines. The Premier League has learned the value of such roles; something Europe has known for a while.
In order to keep up with the times, Brighton appointed a gifted operator. In fact, securing Ashworth's signature ahead of several competitors is great business planning. The former West Bromwich Albion chief is highly regarded throughout the game. He impressed even before his spell within the England national team set-up
Ashworth was crucial to establishing the Baggies in the top flight. His work helped stabilise them, turning from a yo-yo team into one worthy of Premier League status. It is telling that after his departure, the West Midlanders began to slide, before ultimately returning to the Championship.
Brighton will hope Ashworth has a similar impact at the Amex. This is their second season in the Premier League; they don't want it to end. Bringing in the 47-year-old is a move to prevent that from happening. The Seagulls require someone to provide structure, making them a top-tier regular.
Beyond that, Ashworth will plan for the future. Brighton's rise has been remarkable in recent years. Already ambitious, their technical director is tasked with pushing them further. His ability to think long-term and install a strategy will help the south-coast outfit meet goals.
Ashworth proved credentials during his time at the FA. He is credited with implementing the 'DNA', something England had craved for decades. His role was hugely important in what is, according to the governing body, the Three Lions' best year since 1966.
Gareth Southgate is a big admirer of Ashworth's work. The latter played a key role in the national youth sides' continuing success. England's under-17s and 20s both won the World Cup. The Under-18s and 19s claimed the Toulon Tournament and European Championship respectively. The Under-21s reached the Euro semi-finals, too.
The Seagulls believe Ashworth can have a similar effect on their youth. That very much falls under his ability to set them up long-term. Clubs such as Brighton cannot afford to rest on solid transfer business alone. They require capable youngsters as a back-up.
Having significantly improved both England and West Brom's youth set-ups, Ashworth can do the same in his new role.
There is also the impact on Chris Hughton to consider. Ashworth's arrival will ease the pressure on him. The Brighton boss has impressed since joining almost four years ago, not only masterminding their rise to the Premier League but also keeping them there. He has been greatly assisted by those above.
In particular, the head of recruitment Paul Winstanley, who helped develop the Seagulls' scouting team into one which is now highly regarded across Europe. Among his coups was capturing Pascal Gross last May. The German midfielder proved a shrewd signing. Ashworth has the ability to emulate Winstanley's nous in the transfer market.
Having another mind behind him will allow Hughton to focus on the coaching, something he excels in. Similarly, it will aid the club in taking a more forensic approach. Improving across the board will no doubt benefit team performance. Ashworth's prior achievements prove he can have such an effect.
As with any new appointment, only time will tell whether his works out. Brighton's recruitment has been exemplary in recent years, though. Ashworth feels like another smart addition.