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Congerton claims credit for time at Sunderland; Disappointment for Januzaj & Denayer

Lee Congerton has given his first interview to the media in Scotland since landing the role of Head of Recruitment at Celtic. The former Sunderland Director of Football appears to have addressed some of the criticism leveled at him from his spell at the Stadium of Light; Elsewhere, Adnan Januzaj and Jason Denayer were thought to have had a chance of a call-up to the Belgian side, but there's no place for either in Roberto Martinez's latest squad.

Sunderland v Shrewsbury Town: EFL Cup Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

No international nods for Januzaj and Denayer

Sunderland's two Belgian loanees may have been hoping for a call from Roberto Martinez during the last few days as the former Everton boss put the finishing touches to his squad for a World Cup Qualifier against Greece and a friendly match with Russia.

Jason Denayer and Adnan Januzaj, both aged 22, each have a handful of caps for their country.

Denayer was part of the Belgium squad which reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 before being eliminated by Wales. The Manchester City man endured a chastening evening in his only appearance at the tournament as the Welsh stunned their star-studded opponents to progress to the semis.

Wales v Belgium - Quarter Final: UEFA Euro 2016
Jason Denayer up against Gareth Bale at Euro 2016
Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Januzaj featured for the country of his birth at the 2014 World Cup and as a 19-year-old played 30 minutes against South Korea. But a lack of first team football since has limited the Manchester United man's further involvement with his last call-up coming in 2015.

Korea Republic v Belgium: Group H - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil
Adnan Januzaj in action against South Korea at the 2014 World Cup
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

In the end, neither Sunderland man has made the squad announced at lunch time on Friday.

Denayer probably had the better chance of the two with Belgium missing defenders Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Lombaerts, though Martinez did hint earlier in the week that the City loanee being utilised in midfield this season at the Stadium of Light may have led to his reluctance to call Denayer for a spot at the back.

Congerton at Celtic

Former Sunderland Director of Football, Lee Congerton, has given his first interview to the press in Scotland following his unveiling as Celtic's new Head of Recruitment.

The 43-year-old reflected on his rollercoaster 18-months at the Stadium of Light and appeared to address some of the criticisms which have been leveled at him for his ill-fated spell at Sunderland.

The former Chelsea, Hamburg and Sunderland man is reunited with Brendan Rodgers at the Scottish league leaders. Congerton and the ex-Liverpool manager worked together at Stamford Bridge when the current Celtic boss was in charge of the reserve team under José Mourinho.

Speaking to the Daily Record, Congerton clearly attempted to address some of the issues which dogged his spell at Sunderland and which have been raked back over since it was announced he was to join the Glasgow giants earlier this week.

On his perceived background as first and foremost a data-driven scout and analyst, and perhaps with a nod to the apparent breakdown in relationship between the positions of Director of Football and Manager during his period at Sunderland, Congerton said:

I like to smell the grass and see the player. Scouting is not about 'I'. It's about the team.

Congerton seemed to particularly have issues in his working relationship with Gus Poyet during the Uruguayan's spell as manager at the Stadium of Light.

Poyet once famously insisted he was not responsible for the lack of quality at the club - pointing to the 'recruitment' side of the business as the department to blame - the area headed up by Congerton at the time.

But perhaps older and wiser as a result of his period at Sunderland, Congerton suggested to the Scottish media that his role at Parkhead will be in a supportive manner rather than attempting to lead the manager down a certain route:

You get lost in this. We go on about this director of football role and who has authority in terms of communication.

At the end of the day, there's only one person who can pick the team and that's the manager, the head coach, whatever you want to call it.

The passage of time and the continuation of the same old problems at Sunderland since Congerton's departure over a year ago have probably softened the judgement passed on his 18-month spell as Director of Football.

But, ultimately there was precious little sign of improvement in the departments he was brought in to oversee and there was no leadership from the Director's office. Congerton still seems to be oblivious to his failings at Sunderland though and even attempted to claim credit for Gus Poyet and Dick Advocaat's miracle escapes from relegation in 2014 and 2015,

It's a marvellous club and I enjoyed working there with some wonderful people but they were bottom of the league when I arrived and we twice managed to stay up.

In truth, Lee Congerton is probably one of the last people who deserve that credit from that period at Sunderland - regardless of the 'achievement' he believes a desperate last-gasp escape from the drop to have been.

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