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Can the director of football role work?

Newcastle United
by Simon Austin (U1645949) 05 September 2008
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The director of football has become the bete noir of English managers.

Alan Curbishley and Kevin Keegan both cited interference in transfer policy as the key reason for their resignations earlier this week.

Curbishley was infuriated that West Ham technical director Gianluca Nani had authorised the sale of George McCartney without his knowledge, while Keegan could not accept that executive director Dennis Wise had signed two players he had never even heard of on transfer deadline day.

Harry Redknapp voiced the thoughts of many English bosses when he said: "Players are bought and sold without the manager's
consent - and even knowledge in some cases. How can you do the job like that?"

Five Live football correspondent Mike Ingham has even suggested that the trend of appointing directors of football could lead to the demise of the English manager.

But can the partnership between a director of football and a manager work?

David Pleat, who was Spurs director of football from 1998 to 2004, says it can.

"It's absolute rubbish to say it can't," he told BBC Sport. "But both men need to buy into the idea from the start and respect each other."

These sentiments are backed by Stoke director of football John Rudge who, in tandem with manager Tony Pulis, helped the club secure promotion to the Premier League last season.

He told the BBC: "I'm working with someone I get on really well with in Tony and I hope I can just help by taking the strain off him, because I know exactly what it's like to be a manager."

Rudge says it's too much to ask one man to oversee coaching, transfers, the academy, dealing with the board and matchday matters.

"Being a manager is a hard role and can be often too much for one person," he said.

"I'm here to lighten the load so Tony can focus on winning matches."

West Ham vice chairman Asgeir Fridgeirsson also believes the old-fashioned model of one man being in control of all football matters leads to expense and instability.

When a new manager comes in, he inevitably wants to bring in new players and ship out many of the old ones.

"About a year ago, we began to feel we were vulnerable in having a structure with one manager who runs all football matters," Fridgeirsson said.

"If the manager leaves, where does it leave you? We decided to build an infrastructure and philosophy for the club, which would provide continuity."

West Ham and Newcastle have both decided on a policy of mainly signing young players who can be developed.

The clubs believed that Nani and Wise were better suited to doing this than the respective former managers.

A source "close to Newcastle's board" is reported to have ridiculed Keegan's lack of knowledge of emerging players, saying he had presented a wish list of signings valued at more than £200m, including Ronaldinho, Thierry Henry and Frank Lampard.

Instead, Wise was charged with looking to South America and Spain for previously undiscovered talent.

Nani had an impressive track record of unearthing talented players when he worked at Brescia.

Folklore has it that he discovered KakŠ in Brazil, only for the Italian club to be unable to afford him.

What is undoubtedly true is that he helped to develop future Italy internationals Andrea Pirlo and Luca Toni and enabled the club to make huge profits on players such as Slovakian Marek Hamsik.

Yet, despite all these arguments in favour of the director of football role, it is the manager who has to stand on the touchline on matchday and suffer abuse if his new signings fail to perform.

And it seems clear, as Pleat and Rudge suggest, that the director of football and manager must get along.

Ideally, the director of football will have recruited the manager in the first place.

This was not the case with either Keegan or Curbishley, but perhaps the structure will work when their successors are appointed.

What do you think?

Can the structure work? Is it unsuited to English football or do English managers need to change their ways?

Latest 10 comments

Read members' comments or add your own

posted Oct 28, 2008

Difficult thing to talk about because there have sucess stories with this system and real problems caused by it.

The Keegan situation required a Director of Football as Keeganhas never come over as a very stable employee at England or Newcastle, you often get the feeling that he would run off if he didn't get the right type of biscuits with his tea, but I was not sure what experience Dennis Wise brought to the position. I maybe wrong but he didn't seem to have a wealth of knowledge or stature therefore I would be concerned at the appointment if I was at the club.

Harry Redknapp is old school and although a real football man and well respected by fans and players alike he has only really managed rather small clubs. I am led to believe that Pompey are in real financial trouble, so he left them with the best team they have ever had and a FA Cup but at what cost, maybe some form of Director of Football is needed to explain the reality of what is affordable and what is not. I hear you say that it is a relationship between the manager and the Chairman but there should be something in between whether you call him Director of Scouts or Football there should be a business manager to ease the relationship between football matters and money. I have this worring feeling that Harry has left Pompey in so much debt that there maybe an underlying reason why he has jumped ship. I REALLY HOPE I'M WRONG.

Wenger and Dein worked the system well and I think Wenger is considered to have made some of the best transfer in amd outs ever making Arsenal a lot of money and almost financing the clubs transfer policy with internal finance. I should imagine that Dein has had a lot to do with that over the years and there seemed to be a respect between them.

Man Utd and Fergie the most sucessful team and manager in the modern day era, if the whole policy is down to Fergie then he has wasted 10's of millions over the years. It is not looked at because they win things and food is brought to the table but the loss on Veron alone at that time could have financed most clubs in the bottom half of the premier on its own. I am led to believe that UTD have debt's of 100's of millions and if they for any reason go into a slump for a five or ten year period they will be in serious trouble.

I think the basic fact is that the Premiership is big business with enormous financial rewards and losses, some form of business manager is required for direct football costs whatever he is called, but someone who can bring something to the table and stand between the football and business matters of players, agents, wages, fees leaving a relationship of manager to team a football matter.

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posted Oct 28, 2008

The sporting director should be a role which involves taking charge of the purchasing sporting equipment, upgrading the ground and technical sponsers. i reackon there should e a seperate role in the club called the negociation director 9obviously it would need a better name).

the manager and the chairman are too busy running the team and the club, so rather than them having to fly all over the planet to discuss deals with the club whilst there is still their own club to run a representative of the club does the deals for them.

so the manager identifies the players, the negociator says to the chairman i need £10 million to buy X,Y and Z player. then the negociator does the intial bidding and the player then meets the manager and the chairman to discuss contrcts details ETC.

Sporting directors are given the power to indentify players for the manager. the manager identifies the weak positions and the sporting director is then trusted to find the appropiate positions. and thats the traditional continental style. But because the sporting director is given too much power he undermines the managers authority and results in buying players the manager doesnt want.

In theory the system works in england. only the role is exaggereted by the amount of power given to the sporting director.

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posted Oct 28, 2008

I think it was on 5live the other day that it was postulated that the directors of Football at United and Arsenal have not been Gill or Dein but in fact SAF and Wenger themselves are the football directors. After all it is known that neither takes an overly active role in the coaching with that left mainly to Pat Rice at Arsenal and that Portuguese bloke (can't remember his name) up until he left United this summer.

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posted Oct 28, 2008

Jackie Milburn has it right. DOF is just a fancy term for chief scout. The person should report to and be appointred by the manager. Look at Wise at NU, he doesn't even go to his own team's matches.

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posted Oct 28, 2008

If 'Arry has left Portsmouth whilst they are in debt that's the chairman's fault not his. The manager says who he would like to buy but it's the Chairman's job to get him if the price is right. Chairman seem to get off scott- free these days.

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posted Oct 28, 2008

You may be right aggersforcaptain, but not sure as the last two times he didn't get his way he left the clubs, coming back to Pompey when he did get his way. I hope they will be OK and the results will go for them have a lot of mates who are pompey fans

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posted Oct 28, 2008

I am not sure that is right gunnerslover2007 as Dein has been well documented over the years as the contract negoiator. I will stand corrected but that is what I have read over the last ten years

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posted Oct 28, 2008

I would agree wholly with the comments regarding the appointments of DOF at the above mentioned clubs. At this time there are many honest and genuine ex managers sat on their hands doing nothing who could and should have been given the job at NUFC but that debacle is another story entirely.

Had Levy chosen a respected ex Manager to help Ramos and report to the board we may not now be questioning the role of DOF. The role is not a Chief Scout ! it is simply the job of a Honest Broker who should take an impartial role between the playing staff and the directors, taking on board all the paperwork, the academy, the press, travel and the immense HR and contractual dealings of the players and coaches. The Manager should concentrate all his efforts on the teams. It's simple, it does work but change the name, it is wrong to refer to them as directors, they are not.

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posted Oct 28, 2008

The problem at THFC was that the DOF was making the decisions on the in's and out's.

Thats the Managers job, he should have the last word on who comes in.

Even if the DOF spots a young lad he thinks would improve things, the Manager should have the last word, having been given a full dossier on that player.

Comolli didn't work that way he discussed in's and out's with Levy only and then told the Manager who his new player was or who was leaving.

That did not work and never would in the English set-up, as proven with Devonshire, Jol and Keegan.

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posted Oct 28, 2008

Thankyou mastermesmerize for clearing all the speculation up, it is good to have someone who obviously works at the club to give us the inside knowledge.

The one thing I don't understand that if Comolli did all the selling and buying and they were at the bottom of the table why didn't they sack him before Harry's arrival.

I don't suppose the practical common sense of business and resposibility applies to Premiership Football.

Can you clarify with your inside knowledge?

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