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Dan Ashworth: Jeremy Peace was a West Brom visionary – I’d no idea what my role was!

He transformed the structure at Albion before going on to do the same thing at England.

Jeremy Peace the chairman and Sporting and Technical director Dan Ashworth of West Bromwich Albion.
Jeremy Peace the chairman and Sporting and Technical director Dan Ashworth of West Bromwich Albion.

But Dan Ashworth never had ambitions to be a sporting and technical director – in fact when he was first offered the job at The Hawthorns he didn’t completely understand the role.

It was back in 2007 that former Baggies owner Jeremy Peace told Ashworth he had a new job for him.

The former PE teacher had been academy manager at The Hawthorns and revolutionised the club’s youth set-up.

Today, though, he is the most in-demand sporting and technical director in the country – with the 51-year-old set to join Newcastle later this year.

But speaking exclusively to the Express & Star, Ashworth admitted it was Peace’s vision that changed his career.

“I didn’t think about it at all,” Ashworth told the Baggies Broadcast podcast when asked when he first start to think about becoming a sporting and technical director.

“But I remember the meeting I had with Jeremy Peace vividly. It was in December. Tony Mowbray was manager and we were in the Championship.

“The chairman called me and asked me to come and see him. I just thought it was a monthly meeting about the academy.

“But he said he’d spoken to Tony and they wanted me to be sporting and technical director.

“I said ‘what is it?’ And he explained the role.

“Jeremy was a visionary. He had spent a lot of time looking at clubs across Europe and felt he wanted the role to fit between the board and the football side. And he explained what he wanted me to do. He said there are four main areas, player recruitment, men’s first-team, the academy and medical and sports science.

“They were the four departments where he wanted some consistency of thought throughout the club and for me to work closely with Tony.

“It was about devising and getting a strategy that would put West Bromwich Albion in a good place for years to come and just get a thoroughness around those processes.

“But I said again, ‘I don’t really know what the job is, chairman.’”

Peace outlined why he thought Ashworth was the man for the role.

“The academy bit he said I’d find easy because I’d been an academy manager – I’m not saying being an academy manager is easy – I’m just saying I had done that for 12 years,” Ashworth continued.

“Player recruitment, you still recruit in the academy so when you are looking at player profiles you have an idea who is a good player and who isn’t.

“The numbers change because you are buying players and the levels of salary were different.

“Dealing with Tony Mowbray, I’d never been a first-team manager and nor do I want to be, but I was there to support Tony.

“And medical and sports science, I have got a degree in physical education where you touch on a bit of sports science but I’m far from an expert but I had a little bit of insight.

“I didn’t know what the job was but Jeremy told me to have a go at it.

“He said his rationale was that he wanted a suit that could wear a tracksuit and a tracksuit that can wear a suit.

“He said he wanted someone to have the football conversations with the managers, with the players, with the agents, with the academy players, with the academy parents and with the academy staff.

“But he also wanted someone who can put a suit on and come into the boardroom to present strategy and budgets and understand a long-term philosophy.

“He wanted to be able to put together a plan that would help us medium to long-term.”

Despite that conversation, Ashworth was still unsure.

“Jeremy told me he’d like me to do it and I asked him if I could have a think about it,” he added.

“He said ‘Yes. I’ll see you tomorrow’.

“He didn’t give me long. I really didn’t know what the job was so I told him I would do it until the end of the season but I had a couple of conditions.

“I said I wanted to have it in writing that if he didn’t like me doing the job, or I didn’t like the job, I could have my academy manager’s job back at the end of the season.

“And he said, okay.

“So I had it in writing that I was sporting and technical director until the end of the season and either one of us could say it’s not quite worked out, you can have your academy manager’s job back.

“I did become sporting and technical director without knowing what the job was. And I’ve stayed there ever since.”

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