Dan Ashworth preparing for his West Brom departure

Dan Ashworth admits at times it feels like he is planning his own funeral.

Soccer - Dan Ashworth File Photo

But in many ways, the success of the Ashworth era will be confirmed by the success of the one that follows.

The sporting and technical director is working his way through between 50-60 applicants to do just that having established a template for the role which is now the envy of the rest of professional football.

Many clubs continue to try establishing a sporting director to work between the manager and the owner’s office but no club has quite enjoyed such success as Albion.

And a lot of that has been down to Ashworth’s political skills as much as his football 'savvy.'

He has been a smart enough operator to erase suspicion and doubts and instead build trust and confidence – no mean feat in an industry which remains thick with paranoia.

It will be no easy act for his replacement to follow but by having Ashworth lead the search, Albion could not have a better-informed head-hunter.

“I said to my wife that it's a bit like planning your own funeral,” says Ashworth.

“I won't actually have to work with this person, though I'm sure there will be a handover period, although that’s a board decision. My job is to sift and come up with ideas in conjunction with Mark (Jenkins) and Richard (Garlick) to put to the chairman to have final sign-off.

“The chairman will make the final decision because this person will need to work with the chairman but a certain personality would be necessary so an abrasive, confrontational type of person would probably not work at this football club.

“I have four department heads – the academy manager, the head coach, a head of medical services and a head of technical scouting. All four of those people are experts in their field and we trust them.

“My job is to be the hub in the middle of the wheel and bring it all together to make sure there is continuity when one of those people leaves.

“I don’t go to Mark Harrison and come back and say ‘the youth team must play this way’. I can guide, suggest and we work together.

“But I don't interfere. My job is to get all four department heads working together for the football club. This job is to support and help – not to interfere.”

Ashworth has always been able to get on with the head coaches, from Mowbray to Clarke, because he has never harboured ambitions for their role.

“If I wanted to be a head coach I would have applied for the job. If I had aspirations to be a head coach I would have applied for that job so I’m not a threat. I’m not going to be sat in the dug-out – in fact I’m quite glad I’m not!”

But he admits that the call of his country was too big a challenge to resist after nine years at Albion – “that’s nearly a quarter of my life” – during which the club has made huge advances.

But did he have one memory, one defining moment, which summed up his Hawthorns years?

“I don’t know if there is one defining moment,” he says.

“There is a fantastic team here so I can’t point to one signing or one appointment because so many people are responsible for interviewing, scouting, sifting. There are lots of things we can be proud of as a football club.”

“But perhaps my proudest and weirdest moment was when we beat Aston Villa to pretty much stay in the Premier League after Roy had come in.

“I started in the Championship with Tony, we went up, went down, came back up so that year we stayed up and stayed up properly – not in the last minute.

“It was a real surreal moment in that we'd achieved everything and it had taken four years to do it – we also beat Aston Villa and ended our hoodoo against them that day.

“I felt like I should be squirting champagne everywhere. I remember watching ‘Match of the Day’ that night with a cup of tea, my four-year-old lad fell asleep next to me and it was a real moment for me – but also a bit of a flat moment.

“I knew we would soon have to do it again... but we’d stayed up, we’d done it, we beat Aston Villa; after four and a half years we'd done it and won our Premier League status.”