Congerton: I can make a difference at Sunderland

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LEE Congerton turned down job offers at home and abroad so he could move to Sunderland.

The Black Cats’ new director of football took over his role in March at a time when it was uncertain whether he would be recruiting players this summer for the Premier League or Championship this summer.

But the 40-year-old, who has impressed in coaching, scouting and directorial roles at Liverpool, Chelsea and Hamburg, says it felt he was doing the right thing moving to Wearside.

“Sunderland were bottom of the league when I joined and a few asked me what I was doing,” he smiled.

“But I did my research and had a feel for the club and I felt they were in a false position.

“I had other opportunities in England to do this role, but Sunderland was the one club where I thought, ‘I fancy this’.

“It’s an area where football is so important to people and that’s the way I think too.

“I want to be the best director of football I can be.

“The role exists everywhere else in the world except England and I had opportunities to go to other countries as well but I wanted to make my mark back home.

“And my father is really proud because he’s from the North East and he spoke of how big a club it is and I feel I can make a difference here.”

Congerton’s initial gut instinct has since become a genuine attachment as he was carried along by the growing wave of hope and euphoria which swept the club – and the city – as the Great Escape from relegation was made.

“I was so happy for everyone that Sunderland stayed up and that the fans stuck with the team and the players were together,” he said.

“It just impressed upon me, when the fans were still coming, what a football club this is.

“I was so happy for all those people that the club stayed in the Premier League.

“If we had gone down, I would have felt that we could have come straight back.

“But it’s not an easy division to get out of and it’s great for me, too, that I’m working in the Premier League where I want to be.”

The post of director of football is still viewed with suspicion by many Sunderland fans – especially after the controversy and chaos which ensued in Roberto De Fanti’s brief reign.

But Congerton is already one step ahead of his predecessor in being prepared to give full and frank interviews to the media.

And the Welshman insists that he will not stand on ceremony in terms of pecking orders or have any agenda other than to do his best for Sunderland Football Club.

“I think titles are not important – the most important thing is communication,” he said.

“My role is to help the manager or coach be successful and to work together to improve the club.

“Gus’s job is to improve the players, which he is fantastic at, and it’s my job to help get recruitment right.

“That’s an important area, an area we’ve got to get right.

“We’re signing players for a lot of money and a lot of wages and what we’re trying to do is minimise the risk.

“We will never bring a player to the club that the coach or manager doesn’t want though.

“Gus is involved in the process and we speak on a daily basis.

“He’s passionate and loves to be involved and I’m delighted to be involved because two heads are better than one.

“We’ve gone through the lists of targets and we are working to try to bring those players to the club when we speak.”