Lee Congerton's appointment strengthens Gustavo Poyet's hand

The imminent arrival of Lee Congerton as Sunderland's next director of football confirms Gustavo Poyet's grip on the club

Stu Forster/Getty Images Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet
Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet

Gustavo Poyet’s control over Sunderland’s transfer policy has been confirmed after he was allowed to rubber-stamp their new director of football.

Welshman Lee Congerton is expected to leave his job as SV Hamburg’s technical director to become the Black Cats’ next director of football this month.

The club’s last director of football, Roberto De Fanti, arrived at Sunderland after former head coach Paolo Di Canio, but had still been involved in the recruitment of his fellow Italian, who complained at being presented with players he did not approve of.

Now it seems the balance of power has shifted, with the new man taking a different attitude.

De Fanti left his post during the January transfer window, leaving Poyet in complete control of signings. That responsibility will now pass to Congerton.

Despite the patchy record of former agent De Fanti in his six months in the role, Sunderland chairman Ellis Short is committed to the principle of a director of football, commonplace on the Continent.

De Fanti signed 14 players last summer. Modibo Diakite, Cabral, David Moberg-Karlsson and Duncan Watmore have been loaned out.

Valentin Roberge, Jozy Altidore, El-Hadji Ba, Emanuele Giaccherini, Charis Mavrias and Andrea Dossena are yet to have the hoped-for impact. Against that, Vito Mannone, and the on-loan pair of Fabio Borini and Ki Sung-Yeung, have been some of the club’s best players this season.

Congerton made his name at Poyet’s former club Chelsea, where he worked as youth-team coach, then chief scout. His responsibilities included overseeing the introduction of players such as Borini into the first team.

Before joining Chelsea Congerton worked as Wrexham’s youth system director, then joined Liverpool’s coaching staff. His relationship with Chelsea’s then-sporting director Frank Arnesen saw him follow the Dane to Hamburg in 2011.

Congerton has stressed in the past he does not believe directors of football should sign players without the coach’s approval.

“I think it is frowned upon a lot in England because the managers don’t really understand what the role is,” he said. “In England it’s perceived the sporting or technical director is signing players that he wants to play in the team.

“But we don’t bring a player here that the coach doesn’t want – ultimately he has to play them in the team. What we do is try to minimise the risk, so that we know the player and gather detailed information on them because the coach also has to understand that the sporting director has a responsibility to the organisation.”

The former Crewe Alexandra player has spoken in the past of his desire to work as a sporting or technical director in England, but Hamburg refused West Bromwich Albion permission to appoint him to replace Dan Ashworth when he left to join the Football Association at the end of last season.

Meanwhile, Sebastian Larsson has explained his angry reaction to being substituted in Sunday’s League Cup final, saying it was aimed at referee Martin Atkinson for not giving a foul in the build-up to Yaya Toure’s goal.

“My little outburst was not directed against any of our staff,” he said.

“Obviously, you’re never happy to be replaced, but I was angry at the referee. You become frustrated because we should have had a free-kick just before the equaliser. Then City score a second goal and the frustration spills over a bit.”

Craig Pawson has been appointed to referee Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final at Hull City. Pawson refereed Poyet’s first game as Sunderland coach, a 4-0 defeat at Swansea City.


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