Dan Ashworth has left the Football Association after six years to become Brighton’s technical director.
The 47-year-old has held the same role with the national governing body since 2012 and is considered by many in the game to have played a key role in England’s upturn in results, particularly at age group level and in women’s football.
In a statement, Brighton chairman Tony Bloom said: “There is no doubting Dan’s standing within the game, and we are absolutely delighted that he will be joining us.
“Dan’s CV speaks for itself, and while his work alongside Gareth Southgate, with England’s senior men’s team, was well documented last summer during the World Cup, it’s also worth highlighting his excellent work and successes across all the England men’s, women’s and junior teams.”
Ashworth, who will start at Brighton in the spring, will oversee the club’s Lancing-based academy and medical departments, and be responsible for player recruitment and development at all levels.
Brighton chief executive Paul Barber explained that first team boss Chris Hughton will continue to report to him and the chairman, while head of recruitment Paul Winstanley will report to Ashworth, as will head of academy John Morling and the medical team.
“We’ve been seeking a technical director for some considerable time now. We met some outstanding candidates along the way, both in the UK and overseas, but we’ve ended up with our preferred choice,” added Barber.
Ashworth said: “I am delighted to be joining one of the country’s most progressive clubs. This is a huge opportunity for me and I have taken a lot of time to talk to Tony Bloom, Paul Barber and Chris Hughton before making the decision to make the move.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Football Association, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the chairman Greg Clarke, CEO Martin Glenn, England managers Gareth Southgate and Phil Neville, as well as the coaches and staff at all levels who have supported me so well.
“It’s been an honour and great pleasure to serve my country in the past half decade.”
Glenn said: “Dan has been a terrific servant for the FA and put in place a high-achieving structure at St. George’s Park which will serve the organisation well in the years to come. Thanks to his work, we also have a strong support staff in place who will be able to build on the success of recent years and help us continue the significant progress of St. George’s Park and our England teams.”
Southgate added: “Having recently attended a FIFA conference with Dan, we walked in the room as semi-finalists at a major tournament for the first time in 28 years but perhaps even more significantly as world champions at Under-17 and Under-20 level. In terms of the work of a technical director, I don’t think he could have had a bigger impact with the plans he put in place at the FA and the way that the national teams have progressed in the time Dan has been in charge.”
Ashworth’s departure will be a blow to Southgate, who earlier this week praised his contribution to returning England to football’s “top table”.
However, the former West Brom technical director and Norwich player has made little secret of his ambition to return to club football and his work at the FA’s National Football Centre has attracted several suitors.
A former Norwich defender, Ashworth has also held senior development roles at Peterborough and Cambridge and was linked with Manchester United earlier this year.
On his watch at the FA, England claimed the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups, the Under-19s became European champions and the prestigious Toulon Tournament has been won three years in a row.
The women’s side have also reached the semi-finals of the World Cup and Euros, reaching a high of second in FIFA’s rankings earlier this year.
The only false step was his appointment and subsequent backing of former England women’s manager Mark Sampson, who was fired last year when it emerged he had behaved inappropriately in his previous job and should not have been hired in the first place.
This, however, only came to light after a deeply embarrassing row over discriminatory comments made by Sampson towards England players Eni Aluko and Drew Spence.
Ashworth was left bruised by the experience, which included an appearance before a Westminster select committee, but survived calls for his job thanks to his undisputed track record in youth development and overall contribution.