SUNDERLAND’S new sporting director Lee Congerton has revealed the lure of working alongside Gus Poyet was a major influence in his decision to join the club after leaving Hamburg SV.
The Black Cats confirmed Congerton’s appointment yesterday, but it is understood work has already been going on behind the scenes to outline a strategy ahead of the summer transfer window.
The Welshman replaces former director of football Roberto De Fanti, who was sacked in January, with Sunderland’s announcement coming hours after chief scout Valentino Angeloni, appointed during Paolo Di Canio’s disastrous reign, left the club.
Congerton will work alongside Poyet and oversee player recruitment as well as the club’s domestic and international scouting operation.
Black Cats owner Ellis Short has taken his time to find De Fanti’s replacement, but it is understood Congerton was the American’s preferred choice.
Short is keen to avoid a repeat of the destruction caused by Di Canio and De Fanti’s time on Wearside and Poyet has openly admitted that he and the new director must get on and pull in the same direction.
The Italian pair oversaw 14 new arrivals at the Stadium of Light last summer, but the Wearsiders have spent the majority of the season in the Premier League’s bottom three.
Congerton is well-respected within the game having started his post playing career as Wrexham’s academy director, before moving on to Liverpool and then Chelsea, where he worked under Frank Arnesen.
He moved to Bundesliga outfit Hamburg in 2011 as their technical director, but revealed the lure of working alongside Poyet was too good to turn down.
“I’m delighted to join Sunderland AFC and would like to thank the board and owner for this great opportunity,” Congerton said.
“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.”
Chief executive, Margaret Byrne, said: “Lee is very highly regarded within football circles and we have been very impressed by him.
“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.”
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.”
Sunderland’s focus turns back to their fight for Premier League survival this weekend when Crystal Palace visit the Stadium of Light.
Poyet’s side sit one point from safety with 11 games left and have stayed in touch with the teams above them despite being distracted by both domestic cup competitions.
Seb Larsson insists the squad have always regarded survival as they main priority and revealed the squad is confident they will start next season in the top flight.
“Obviously it was a massive disappointment losing in the cup final and then going out of the FA Cup,” Larsson said.
“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.”
Season card holders can bring along friends and family to Saturday’s game with Crystal Palace (3pm kick-off) with the option to buy two additional tickets for the game, priced at just £10 each.
Standard tickets for the games are priced at £25 for adults, £19 for over 65s and £10 for under 16s and can be purchased in person from the Stadium of Light ticket office, by calling the credit card hotline 24 hours a day on 0871 911 1973 or by visiting www.safc.com/tickets.
Supporters who purchase tickets online can use the club’s free print at home service – full details can be found on www.safc.com.