And so the inevitable statement was finally made this week.
Dan Ashworth is, to all intents and purposes, serving the final few months of his time as West Bromwich Albion’s sporting and technical director.
The 41-year-old will assume a new role as the Football Association’s new Director of Elite Development.
He will remain at the club for now – until a successor is sourced.
The project was a success.
When Ashworth took over his role in 2008 there was still a whiff of derision about Albion’s decision to stick by their tiered system of using an S&TD to work alongside their ‘head coach’.
Ashworth’s predecessor Simon Hunt had not been successful. A few decent signings arrived – but several (Bartosz Slusarski, Pele, Tininho) were, at best, underwhelming.
But the role evolved under Ashworth.
There was still an element of scouting but the network implemented by Ashworth meant that he would have people coming to him with recommendations. He would then act on those. At his peak, Ashworth was viewing 300 games a year – 200 of which he attended himself.
The job also entailed building up a sports science department which enabled Albion to take gambles on the likes of Steven Reid, Jerome Thomas and Giles Barnes. It’s also why they pursued Owen Hargreaves last summer.
Ashworth’s further duties involved looking after player welfare, overseeing the academy and generally acting as the link man between ‘manager’ and the Board. Diplomacy was a prerequisite.