As reported earlier this week, two names have emerged from the mist as Sunderland seek to find someone capable of running the club’s recruitment team in the wake of Tony Coton and Richard Hill’s departures from the club last week.
In the Chronicle, James Hunter reported that, “the Black Cats are considering bringing in either Leicester City’s Guy Branston or Leeds United’s Craig Dean to fill the vacuum” left by the departure of Sunderland’s recruitment team.
But, who are the two men in question, and would they be a good fit at Sunderland?
In his playing days, Branston was a central defender and played throughout the football leagues with a vast array of sides - 19 in total.
After his final stint at Plymouth, Branston was an Academy Coach at Exeter for several months before he was hired as a Chief Scout by Notts County where the club noted he would “work closely with Manager Shaun Derry and his coaching team to identify and assess potential transfer targets as well as organising the club’s network of scouts.”
Branston worked alongside Jim Rodwell during his time at Notts County, but unfortunately for Branston, who was hired by County in February of 2015, Notts were relegated to League Two that season.
Branston left Notts County in June of 2016 and became the Head of Football Operations at Nuneaton Town the following month. Branston worked at Nuneaton for five months where he coached the first team and youth team as well as helping to develop Nuneaton’s new full-time academy.
Several months later, Branston was hired by Chesterfield FC as the Director of Recruitment and Development where Branston notes his remit included reducing the club’s wage bill, minimizing fees paid to agents, and making astute signings. After a couple of months in the role, Branston was appointed the club’s caretaker manager for two games after the sacking of Gary Caldwell. The club were eventually relegated from League Two later that season months after Branston left the club.
In December of 2017, Branston was hired by Leicester as an Academy Coach and a year later was given an additional role as Leicester’s Loan Manager. Additionally, Branston is a consultant for Total Football Analysis - a company that “provides data science, tactical and technical analysis, tactical and technical scouting, and recruitment services to football clubs.” Branston’s role at TFA includes him having the “the task of introducing the consultancy side of our business to professional clubs, agents and players.”
Dean has a rich history of developmental roles within English Football. Two stints at the FA working in developmental roles sit either side of a spell at Newcastle United where Dean was the Head of Player Development from 2007-2013.
After his second spell at the FA ended in 2014, Dean moved to Oxford United where he was Head of Scouting for three years. In that time Dean notes that his role consisted of:
Viewing and reporting on potential future targets for the football club that align into the Oxford United DNA Position Specific profile. The day to day lead for all organisation of part time scouts in conjunction with the Head of Technical Recruitment and ensuring that all relevant information and potential leads on player recruitment are recorded. Dealing on daily basis with player agents regarding potential targets.
After three years with Oxford, Dean then moved to Leeds where he currently works as the club’s Head of Emerging Talent. Reporting at the time SportsLens noted that:
“The new Leeds appointment’s duty will be to secure the best young talents between the ages of 17 and 21. The transfer strategy at Leeds United is to invest in youth because of the resale value factor. The appointment of Dean could prove to be vital because of his experience with youth.”
It has been noted in the press that Dean’s eye for young talent has attracted interest from Premier League sides, but Leeds have held onto their man for now.
Dean has been touted as the man who saw enough in Daniel James to convince Leeds to make an offer for the winger back in January of 2019. Unfortunately for the Yorkshire side, that deal fell through and the former Swansea starlet then moved to Manchester United in a deal worth to be around £15 million plus add-ons.
Phil Hay of the Yorkshire Evening Post noted that Dean had spotted James during his analysis of young talent, and “the video clips shown to Bielsa appealed to him. James was quick, direct and minded to go past full-backs, providing crosses for players arriving in the box as Kemar Roofe and Mateusz Klich like to do.”