West Bromwich Albion have been frustrated in their attempts to prise Lee Congerton from Hamburg as a replacement for Dan Ashworth, who is leaving his role as sporting and technical director at the Midlands club to join the Football Association.
Congerton is the technical director at Hamburg and was identified by Ashworth as his ideal successor. The two have known each other for some time and there are similarities in terms of the way they have worked their way up from youth development roles with lower league clubs – Congerton's coaching career began at Wrexham while Ashworth started at Peterborough – before breaking through and taking up high-profile positions.
Albion have made an approach to Hamburg and were prepared to pay compensation for Congerton but the Bundesliga club have flatly rejected their request for permission to speak to the 39-year-old and now regard the matter as closed. Congerton moved to Hamburg the summer before last, when he left his role as chief scout at Chelsea, where he had worked for six years, to join Frank Arnesen, another former Stamford Bridge employee, at the German club.
He signed a three-year contract, which runs until 2014, and Hamburg, who have turned things around after a poor start to the season, are determined to keep hold of him as they seek to re-establish themselves as a leading club in the Bundesliga. Arnesen, Hamburg's sporting director, rates Congerton highly and will not be surprised that the Welshman has also caught the attention of Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs are looking to appoint a recruitment director to work under a more senior figure, possibly the former England No2 Franco Baldini, although that is likely to be a lengthy process and may not be resolved until the summer.
Albion are keen to move much more quickly, despite the fact that Ashworth is expected to be with them until the end of the season, as he serves out his notice period before taking up his role as the FA's director of elite development. With a move for Nicky Hammond, Reading's director of football, regarded as a non-starter because of the size of the compensation clause in his contract, as well as doubts about whether he would leave the Madejski Stadium, Ashworth faces a difficult task to find someone with the right credentials for the post now that Congerton is removed from the frame.
Damien Comolli, who has held a similar role at Spurs and, more recently, Liverpool is understood to have expressed an interest in the position, although there seems little chance of Albion pursing the Frenchman, who had a dismal time at Anfield and hardly fits the sort of profile the club are after for the post. Andy Marriott, who was previously Ashworth's assistant at Albion and now works for Mercedes, is also keen and would be a more realistic candidate.