Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Norfolk’s Dan Ashworth was yesterday backed to succeed in his new role as the FA’s Director of Elite Development – by the man who knows him better than anyone.
Wroxham’s title-winning boss David Batch has been best mates with Ashworth since the age of 12 and his brother-in-law for the past decade. Batch is convinced the former Norwich City trainee can make a positive long-term impact at the head of English football.
West Brom’s sporting and technical director Ashworth will be based at the FA’s new St George’s Park headquarters when he officially takes over at the end of this season, with a wide-ranging brief which includes a shake up of the domestic game at junior level.
“It’s a great appointment for him,” said Batch. “He has obviously been identified by the FA as the person with the best knowledge to carry out what is a crucial role I think in the long-term development of our game in this country.
“As long as everyone buys into the fact this is going to take time then he will get England more success than we have had. If you look at how many players actually graduate from England age groups to then play regularly at senior level I don’t think the figure is what it should be compared with other countries.
“The conclusion you draw is that something has to be going amiss and it will be Dan’s role to put that right so that the England teams ten years from now have the capability to go and win World Cups and European Championships. It is about establishing a better pathway and finding the right players to start with and then nurturing him.”
Ex-Wisbech Town player Ashworth worked closely with England boss Roy Hodgson during their spell at the Hawthorns and Batch believes the 41-year-old will be able to bridge that divide between the interests of the powerful Premier League clubs and the national body.
“He will have to find that balance between club and country and manage those relationships between stakeholders who might not always share the same interest,” he said.
“He already has that relationship with Roy and that will stand him in good stead.
“At West Brom he has been in charge of recruitment – players and management - the technical side of the club and the academy.
“His job is now to shape English football from the age of 21 downwards, starting at the elite level and working from there.
“Dan will look to create processes at the FA so regardless of whoever is the manager of the national team at any given point he will have a group of capable players to call upon. That is why he has been a success at West Brom.
“They have a stable model which works, irrespective of whenever the first team manager comes and goes.”
Batch believes that England’s poor record at major international tournaments underlines the need for a radical new approach at the top of the game.
“You only have to look at what happened in the summer to see that technically we are a million miles away from the very best countries,” he said.
“I go and watch my lads and you can tell straight away one of the main problems is they don’t touch the ball enough in games. They aren’t encouraged to because they are playing in seven or six-a-side games.
“We haven’t progressed as nation for a long time.
“We go on holiday every year together so we get plenty of opportunity to discuss these things.
“He has already told me he’ll be after Wroxham for our disciplinary record, but from his perspective he had been at West Brom several years now and got himself into a position where he can tick along quite nicely so I’m sure this will be a new, exciting challenge.”
Ashworth, speaking to the FA’s official site, said yesterday he was ‘honoured’ to accept such a prestigious role.
“I am really pleased and indeed honoured to have been offered the opportunity to join the FA,” he said.
“Working within the national set-up has always been a life-long ambition.
“To do so at a time when the future of the game in this country has never looked brighter, through the completion of St George’s Park and the youth development proposals, is an exciting challenge which I look forward to taking on.”
Baggies’ chairman Jeremy Peace revealed West Brom were desperate to keep Ashworth.
“We have had discussions with Dan in an effort to persuade him to stay but the opportunity to work within the national set-up is an ambition he has held for a long time,” he said.
“Dan has reassured me he will continue to give his West Bromwich Albion duties his undivided attention. Dan still has an important role to play this season and he and his staff have already begun planning for the January transfer window.
“Dan has laid a solid foundation for the sporting and technical director position and will now play his part in identifying the right person to continue his good work.”