Whether the job title is director of football, technical director or head of football operations, most clubs now have one. Following what seems like years of misgivings over the role in English football, that link between the pitch and boardroom is now commonplace across the game.

The question that continues to be asked though is: what does the role mean and what does it entail?

To answer that question, UCFB spoke to Brighton & Hove Albion’s very own technical director, Dan Ashworth.

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Ashworth moved to the Premier League club in 2019 following huge success in the same role at The Football Association, where during his time at the governing body England won two youth world cups and reached the semi-finals at both men’s and women’s senior competitions.

So, what does Ashworth do and how does his role fit alongside first team manager Graham Potter at the Amex?

“If it’s a big decision on who’s going to be the next academy manager then that’s not the first team coach’s job. That’s clear in my view,” he says. “If it’s a big decision where we’re signing a player then ultimately, there is no point having a disagreement with the manager. If I want to sign him and the manager doesn’t, then the player won’t play and it becomes a fruitless exercise.”

With the transfer of players often seen as the main job of a technical director by fans, Ashworth explains the issues “that everyone wants to get their teeth into”.

He says: “We would work off of a traffic light system; the recruitment department have got to like the player; the player has got to stack up on data and numbers like the contract and if we can afford him; and the first team manager has got to like the player. If all three things get the green light, then we’ll go ahead. If one is orange, then we need to have a discussion “

Is there much back and forth with the manager when debating the possibility of signing a player? “Yes, of course,” Ashworth explains. “They’re big, multi-million-pound decisions. If it didn’t go backwards and forwards, then there’d be something wrong!

“In any business, if there’s a multi-million-pound decision then several people will be getting involved. It’s healthy debate and constructive conflict. Graham might say “I like this player” and we ask “why?” because we think another player can do X, Y, and Z better and is better value. We then either agree or disagree, then sign the player, or we don’t.”

Ashworth ends our conversation by stating that his role is one as a “relationship builder”, adding: “I’ve got to get on the right page with whichever head coach I’m working with. I’ve got to understand their philosophy, what they want from their team and what they like and dislike, because there’s no point in me bringing them in a player that I know isn’t going to be any good to them.”  

Dan Ashworth was speaking to Mark Clemmit as part of the UCFB Insight Series.