Dan Ashworth has said it was pull not push factors that ultimately led to his decision to leave Albion for a position at an as yet unnamed Premier League club.
The departing technical director was not in a position to expand further on the specifics of his new role, but did admit it was an ‘incredibly tough’ decision to leave, not least because of the outstanding progress being made under Tony Bloom.
He told the club website, “It was a really difficult decision. I thought about it for a long time and thought about it really seriously because I wasn’t looking for a job. I didn’t apply for the job and I have been really happy at Brighton. It’s a brilliant club, it’s really well run, there’s really good people to work with and Tony and Paul [Barber] run it in the right way.
“You talk sometimes about jobs having push or pull factors, there were no push factors. It was nothing like ‘if only I could change this’. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Brighton, living in the city and the area. The support I have had from staff and supporters, players and everyone has been excellent. It’s been an incredibly tough decision. When I have left jobs before, it’s felt like the right time, or there have been push factors, but certainly that wasn’t the case here and I can only speak favourably about the club, the structure and the people here.
“Graham Potter is a top manager and a top person. I will miss working with him, and all those I was working closely with: John Morling, Adam Brett, Hope Powell, Paul Winstanley, all of the staff; the players, led by Lewis Dunk; the senior leadership and executive team, and particularly Paul and Tony, I haven’t got a bad word to say about anybody and I appreciate being given the opportunity to work at the club. I will miss everyone; I will miss living by the south coast, in the city and Brighton as a city and a club over the last three years.”
Ashworth sees his immediate replacement David Weir, who has been handed the role on an interim basis, as a serious contender for the job long term, and has no doubt he will do an ‘outstanding job’.
“First and foremost David is a really good guy, and that is an important trait. He has got the right values and ethics. He’s got unique experiences in that he’s been a top level player; he’s been a manager and an assistant, he’s worked in our loans department for nearly four years, he’s a dad of a player in our system and to three other children, so he’s got a really balanced view.
“He has a good view of how things work here, from working with players out on loan, to negotiating contracts and sales. I have worked closely with him for the last three-and-a-half years. He knows the personalities and the characters at Brighton. He knows the structure and how the club runs, so he will definitely hit the ground running. On top of that he’s a pro licence coach, he’s done a sporting directorship degree, so he's really well rounded and qualified to step into this space and I think he will do an outstanding job.
“What hasn’t changed is Tony Bloom and Paul Barber were here before me and they still are, that hasn’t changed. Paul Winstanley, from a recruitment point of view, and John Morling, in the academy, were both here before me and are still here. It’s not about wholesale changes and a load of new staff coming in, those systems and principals were in place, I was the first technical director at Brighton so what I hope I have done is sit as the hub in the wheel and just bring it together and I have no doubt David will do the same.
“It is just about taking a broader look at what’s going on at the club. There has been some really smart succession planning by the club, and those people around David are still the same, the intellectual property and ability are still the same. I’ve hopefully been able to connect and think a little bit differently on a couple of other things. David has been here through that process and he is stepping into work as part of that a team to help the club continue to grow. The supporters have absolutely nothing to worry about.”
He also says the club will continue to thrive with head coach Graham Potter at the helm.
“Graham has done a brilliant job. Chris’s shoes weren’t easy to step into; he had done a brilliant job. He got the club promoted from the Championship and established us in the Premier League. But it felt the step change for Graham was opening up those pathways for younger players to come through and almost evolve the team, which Graham has brilliantly.
“You can talk about changing the style of play, and he’s done that, but you’ve got to win enough matches to stay in the league and hit our objectives. We’re sat here with the club ninth in the league on 30 points, which has been a really solid start, just over halfway through the season. There’s a lot to go and Graham will be the first to admit that. But he’s brought through a number of younger players, either our own or those we have recruited, players that have maybe come through that people didn’t know so much about and that’s what Graham is all about.”
With spring just around the corner, Ashworth now begins a period of gardening leave as the football world await confirmation of his next destination, but he departs with a ‘heavy heart’ after three and a half years on the south coast.
“I have been lucky that the club have allowed me two days to have a handover, to speak to all the staff, to say goodbye. I was allowed a moment with the team yesterday and genuinely said to them that this is probably the best group of players I have had the privilege of working with in terms of culture and togetherness. They’re a joy to work with.
“That’s pretty much the same message for the staff as well, the phrase I have used quite regularly is, ‘if you don’t want to do a day’s work in your life, get a job you enjoy’ and that’s been me, that’s been me for the last three-and-a-half years at Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club.
“It’s been absolutely brilliant, I have loved every minute of it. I leave with a heavy heart, I genuinely do and I will be watching the progress of the club, hoping the club go from strength-to-strength and continue the outstanding progress the club has made with Tony as chairman. So a huge thank you to everyone, players, staff, supporters and the city, I have had a wonderful time.”