Welshman among favourites to replace Robert De Fanti at Sunderland

Sunderland may look to Hamburg’s highly-rated technical director Lee Congerton to replace dismissed Robert De Fanti

The Stadium of Light, home of Sunderland AFC
The Stadium of Light, home of Sunderland AFC

Sunderland may look to Hamburg’s highly-rated technical director Lee Congerton to replace Robert De Fanti, who paid the price for the Black Cats’ summer transfer misadventures yesterday.

De Fanti was officially dismissed by Sunderland yesterday but he had become an increasingly marginal figure in the days that followed Gus Poyet’s appointment. It is another ruthless move by owner Ellis Short and an illustration of the faith that the club has in Poyet, who has been directing the club’s transfer targets in January.

Although qualified agent De Fanti has departed, Sunderland have no intention of tearing down the structure that was created in the summer. They have also retained Valentino Angeloni as chief scout, although his position appeared less than secure after the departure of the man who recommended his appointment.

Short will look to appoint a new director of football in due course and the name of Congerton – a progressive and highly-regarded figure who was a youth coach at Chelsea before joining Frank Arnesen at Hamburg – figures highly on their wish list.

The 38-year-old Welshman has built up an impressive reputation in the Bundesliga and was approached by West Bromwich Albion earlier this season. He would appear to fit the bill of a candidate with plenty of knowledge of the English game who is also comfortable operating in the overseas market, although any move would test his loyalty to Arnesen – a man he credits as his “role model and mentor”.

Leeds United’s former director of football Gwyn Williams, who worked with Poyet during his time at Elland Road, has also been mentioned but The Journal understands that no appointment is imminent.

The departure of De Fanti emerged yesterday and was confirmed by Sunderland in a short statement confirming the two parties had “parted company”. In reality there had been disquiet about the hit-rate of several of his summer signings, with midfielder Cabral typifying an approach which did not work.

The former Basle man has departed for Genoa less than six months into a long-term contract and has only played once in the Premier League. Similarly there have been concerns over the signing of Valentin Roberge and Mo Diakite – although the recruitment of Ki from Swansea and Vito Mannone from Arsenal have proved successful.

It is telling that Short has backed the judgement of Poyet, who has impressed the Stadium of Light hierarchy in his short time in charge. The Uruguyan was not sold on De Fanti and made it clear last year that he would not accept the Italian having control over recruitment in a January transfer window that he believed was key to the club’s survival hopes.

Sunderland hope to make further moves in the market before the end of January and are still optimistic about their chances of landing Brighton’s talented midfielder Liam Bridcutt. They have been offered encouragement in their pursuit of Ki, who says he feels “bonded” to the Black Cats after making a success of his summer switch from Swansea.

“I feel a bond with this club and that is because if you are a professional player, you have to give your everything,” Ki said. “You do not care who you are or where you are from, it is the team that is important. If you give 100 per cent for that team, then that is what you have to do. People might say I may not really care because I am only on loan but I completely disagree with that.

“If I can help at all, then that is what I want to do. If I can contribute to the team, that has value.”


David Whetstone
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