Lee Congerton has been hailed a “perfect fit” following his appointment as Sunderland’s new sporting director.
The 40-year-old Welshman has been technical director at Bundesliga outfit SV Hamburg for the past three years, and had been identified by the Wearside club as the ideal replacement for former director of football Roberto De Fanti, who left in January after an ignominious six months in the role. And as chief scout Valentino Angeloni yesterday followed De Fanti out of the Stadium of Light, Black Cats chief executive Margaret Byrne confirmed the appointment of Congerton.
“Lee is very highly regarded within football circles and we have been very impressed by him,” she said.
“We feel he is the perfect fit for the club in terms of developing our player recruitment strategy and helping to take the club forward.” Following a brief, injury-ravaged playing spell with Crewe Alexandra, Congerton began his coaching career at Wrexham.
He moved to Liverpool in 2002 and three years later to Chelsea, where he was chief scout, before following Frank Arnesen to Hamburg.
Though De Fanti’s brief reign overseeing Sunderland’s recruitment was less than spectacular, with few of the 14 signings made last summer proving successful, owner Ellis Short remains committed to a management structure popular in his native US.
And while Congerton is “delighted” by the opportunity to shape the club’s future recruitment and scouting strategy, head coach Gus Poyet has already indicated his willingness to work alongside the new appointment.
“I’m delighted to join Sunderland and would like to thank the board and owner for this great opportunity,” said Congerton.
“Working alongside Gus and his team was one of the influential factors in me joining the club and something that I am very much looking forward to.”
Poyet added: “I would like to welcome Lee to the club.
“Recruitment is one of the most important areas in football nowadays, so I’m looking forward to working alongside Lee for the best of the club.”
Meanwhile, Sunderland midfielder Sebastian Larsson insists that despite the “massive disappointments” of the last fortnight, confidence remains high at the club that relegation can be avoided.
The Black Cats lost the Capital One Cup final to Manchester City 11 days ago, and were eliminated from the FA Cup quarter-finals at Hull City on Sunday.
They return to Premier League action at home to Crystal Palace on Saturday, second bottom of the table and a point below a position of safety, though with games in hand on those clubs immediately above them.
Larsson said: “Obviously it was a massive disappointment losing in the cup final and then going out of the FA Cup.
“But it’s back to basics now. We’ve always known that the league is by far the most important thing. Hopefully, it’ll be a good thing just to focus on that now and have no other distractions.
“We’ve only got the league to focus on now, everything else is in the past.
“I can’t say the cup runs felt like a distraction. Especially from the league cup, we were getting a lot of confidence out of it. We were doing well and beating big teams.
“You can’t let it distract you, and what other people think isn’t something we’ll focus on.
“It’s down to us now. It doesn’t matter what I say. It’s down to us to prove it, and we’ll see what happens.
“We’re confident we’ll be a Premier League side next year but it’s up to us to prove that we’re going to be, and the next 12 games will determine that.”