Chairman Jeremy Peace was today credited by Dan Ashworth with the transformation of Albion into a Premier League force.
The London-based financier has cut a controversial figure during his 10 years at the helm after well-publicised battles with major shareholders who he muscled from power.
Peace is now the majority stakeholder of a club which once had one of the most diverse share-spreads in English football.
But Ashworth says the owner’s determination to update Albion has paid handsome dividends – and never more so than in helping him make a success of a role which once provoked suspicion in English football culture.
“The person who needs to take the plaudits is the chairman,” said Ashworth. “He had the foresight and courage to create this role when a lot of people wanted to run it down and run him down by saying it couldn’t work. The chairman has proved to the country that, if it’s set up in a certain way, there is a place for this job.
“Now, it might not work at all 92 clubs but this club has been relatively successful over the last few years.
“A lot of people have contributed to that. We’ve had some fabulous head coaches, we’ve had some great players, some top academy coaches, physios, doctors. A lot of people have contributed to the success of this club but the chairman was the only one who had the foresight to start the role. He was the pioneer of it, had the criticism – not me, him.”
It will be Peace who will have the final say on the next sporting and technical director as Albion take their time over finding a figure who can bind together the work of the club’s different departments as successfully as Ashworth.
But he added: “I don’t think I’ve done anything. The chairman has done it. He pushed and stuck to having this role and he will stick to having this role again when I’m long gone.
“What we’ve done is research it and retained it in the hope it will benefit the next head coach, the next technical director, the next head scout, the next chairman – whoever it applies to.
“It stays in the football club.”