In the late Summer of 2018, it was announced that Dan Ashworth - then technical director for The Football Association - would be stepping down from his role to take up the same position at Brighton & Hove Albion.
Now, firmly cemented on the Sussex shoreline, the foundations have been laid as Ashworth’s philosophy starts to take further shape. To the unfamiliar - of which there are many - the technical director’s position is deeply imperative to an ever-evolving football club.
A founding member of England’s current ‘DNA’, an elite player development scheme, the former Norwich City defender was an integral piece in the national side’s journey deep into the '18 World Cup.
With Gareth Southgate’s side hoping to instil renewed hysteria around the nation, Ashworth’s principles still loom large around the England setup. Having swapped the capital for the beach, he now looks after the medium to long-term interests of the club.
Asked to describe his role on a plentiful number of occasions, an interview with BT Sport unearthed the fundamentals of his position: “There’s six things that come into me. There’s men’s first team, women’s first team, player recruitment, the academy, medical and sports science and the player loan department.”
Effectively acting as Brighton’s engine, Ashworth keeps the wheel spinning by overseeing each department. It connects the club, too, as that same philosophy trickles down into each spoke, creating a harmonious environment for all involved.
A wealth of experience in his particular field has seen the Seagulls change the way the club is run. It is sustainable, efficient and, in the long-term, likely to be even more effective as the quest to consolidate themselves as a top-ten club is certainly within the realms of reality.
Since Ashworth’s arrival, the club have flirted with relegation in each season. The vision around the club, at least, has unequivocally changed. Performances have, on the whole, improved significantly since Graham Potter took charge in May 2019. The ruthlessness in front of goal has, however, been in obvious short supply.
The philosophy is best portrayed through Tariq Lamptey and Ben White, two young, seemingly adept English talents who have greatly enhanced their respective abilities in recent seasons.
Lamptey, despite spending frustratingly long spells on the sidelines with injury, has looked lively with his mix of the silky and intelligent. Ashworth’s heavy involvement with recruitment was influential for Potter’s men in landing the former Chelsea right-back.
It was stressed, too, by Ashworth, of sending the youth out on loan to the correct places in order to give them every chance of eventually playing in the first team. As White indulges in the life of an international footballer, his progression through the EFL cannot be understated.
Playing in the depths of League Two with Newport County just three years ago, he would then get a taste of each division, settling in at Peterborough United before then Championship-side Leeds United would be the final destination before a return to his home club.
Although it may not appear evident, White’s journey through English football is testament to his current place in the national side. Ashworth’s effective strategy, where money being spent wisely on new talent combines with putting focus on developing young players, is no longer the traditional way.
As the competition within the Premier League intensifies each year, with mammoth sums lumped on some of the world’s greatest, it is crucial for clubs to think about straying away from the now perceived conventional.
Some may be foreign to the role but, as the motion in Brighton’s cog, his importance cannot be over-estimated, even if under the radar as he builds renewed structure into the Seagulls’ spine.