Dan the Man will be a tough act to follow at West Brom
13:30 GMT, 20 September 2012
When Dan Ashworth arrived at West Bromwich Albion eight years ago, he did so without the fanfare that has accompanied his departure.
Working as an assistant to Aidy Boothroyd in the club's academy, it would have been difficult to envisage a situation where he has become one of the most important figures in our national game.
That he has done so is a testament to his hard work, diligence and no little skill in forging a reputation for himself in the cut-throat world of professional football.
Man with a plan: Dan Ashworth will be a tough act to follow at West Bromwich Albion
Ashworth has grown into the role of sporting and technical director. Is it any co-incidence that West Bromwich Albion, as a club, has mirrored that growth
Is it because of Ashworth's input Or has his rise as an individual been the by-product of the Baggies' success story since the turn of the Millennium
One thing is for certain. This career coach has certainly made a decent fist of a job that constitutes more than being that of a talent spotter.
Ashworth has five departments reporting into him at the Hawthorns. He is not merely concerned with recruitment. No doubt it is that breadth of experience which also appealed to the Football Association.
But it is a difficult trick to pull off. If it hasn't been, then why wasn't the model, first spoken about by Paul Thompson over a decade ago – of taking a more scientific approach to recruitment, a rip-roaring success from the start
Certainly, former boss Gary Megson was not a convert. Not since the time when it became clear both he and his employers were at loggerheads over which players should receive a new contract following the Baggies' first promotion to the Premier League. Remember the row over Des Lyttle
Is that the way to Wembley: Ashworth will follow former Baggies boss Roy Hodgson in a switch to the FA next summer
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But that was in the early days. When the lines of demarcation were blurred. At other clubs, some might say that they remain so. Not at West Brom, they aren't.
And it is difficult to mount a case against the system the Baggies now employ, given the results at first-team level.
In national terms, West Brom are a big football club. But they are no bigger – some might argue they are smaller – than around half of those who languish in the Championship.
But that just puts the achievement into sharper focus.
There can be no doubt that, as overall head of recruitment that Ashworth has played a major part in the club's rise.
If it is the club's scouts who are spotting these players, if it is the club's sports' science department that has convinced the Baggies to take a chance on the likes of Steven Reid, it if is a growing number of kids who are coming off the production line, then Ashworth has to be given credit.
He was responsible for all this. And more besides.
But there is no doubt that this story would not have received such national prominence were it not for the fact that the Baggies remain a Premier League club.
My own personal view is that whoever signed Peter Odemwingie is owed a big 'Thank You'. That one capture has been the catalyst for so much – although the Nigeria international is not without his faults.
Since securing that first elevation to the Premier League under Megson, the Baggies have been crying out for a 15-goal-a-season striker. Finally, they found one.
Despite Roy Hodgson's organisational skills, it was due to Odemwingie's goals that the club retained its' position in the Premier League. Without them, it's by no means certain that they would have survived relegation.
And, okay, Ashworth didn't sign the cheques. But he would have been part of the team that made the final recommendation. No doubt with a glut of data and references to hand.
Also, when the decision was taken to axe Roberto di Matteo, it was Ashworth who finally persuaded Hodgson to take charge.
It is on Ashworth's watch that West Brom won the Nike Cup three seasons ago.
It was the sporting director who allegedly jumped over a wire fence in Argentina to watch how Claudio Yacob was training. Such is the attention to detail.
True, his main role might have been to act as a go-between. Liaising between head coach and head man. (owner Jeremy Peace)
So, as such, it might be stretching matters to say that Ashworth was the power behind the throne.
Certainly, on Hodgson's watch there was very little doubt West Brom would remain in the top-flight.
But, judging by what the club has become and what has happened to Aidy Boothroyd's assistant since then, there can be no doubt that discovering the next Dan Ashworth is a matter of supreme importance to the future well-being of West Bromwich Albion.