How long, will we go on with a modern way of letting go, tell me how long will we go on with the modern way of letting you go?
– A Modern Way of Letting Go by Idlewild
Rangers Managing Director Stewart Robertson has announced that the club plan to bring in a Director of Football (DoF) to oversee football strategy as part of an ‘overhaul of the management structure at the club’.
The appointed DoF will be tasked to implement a modern football organisation which will ensure continuity in the football structure rather than when a manager leaves, as we have seen with Mark Warburton, having to start from scratch every time.
It isn’t innovate as such but is always seen as suspicious from British football fans perspective. As ever the devil will be in the detail but I applaud the notion to attempt to break from the typical mould.
For a long while, the ‘Director of Football’ position has been treated in British Football with such disdain; treated as something foreign teams do; as something that doesn’t work in Britain because a ‘manager should have the final say on signings’. Those people wouldn’t question the success Southampton have had with it though and quote examples like Damian Comolli at Spurs. There are clearly poor Directors of Football, the same as managers. It is about appointing the best one rather than just an older figure who happens to ‘get’ a club. If that is the route Rangers go down, and I don’t think it is, I don’t believe they have understood the potential of it themselves.
What people who dismiss DoF’s also don’t understand is that football clubs need to modernise otherwise the ones that don’t will be left behind. We are talking about multi-million pound companies that need to head-hunt the best people to perform a job. Just because that job happens to be football doesn’t mean they shouldn’t utilise employment strategies that you would see in other companies.
Clubs should have an index of players they might sign, scouted from around the world and when it is required, they move to sign a player that will fit into a structure, not the other way around. It might also be that they have multiple players identified for those specific roles as things change quickly and ‘first choice’ players may not be available. There tends to be a transfer committee with the Director of Football, a chief scout and others who all decide which players to approach. It is the modern way.
In Scotland, the football recruitment strategy of many seems to be just having a ‘black book’ of contacts is all that is required. It is frankly embarrassing and seems to be the main reason for Frank McParland’s limitations when it came to signings at Rangers. They signed players who did well against them or players who had played for teams Mark Warburton and McParland had been involved with.
Celtic have a vast array of scouts based around Europe and beyond and that lets them scour many markets looking for the right players. They also have a top class manager who does have a vast array of contacts in the English game but we aren’t reliant on that.
Celtic had a form of Director of Football of sorts when John Park was at the club but he has since departed. The structures we have still remains and we still receive the benefits of them. Celtic will likely fill this chief scout role soon.
The news that Rangers want to implement a modern football management approach is to be commended. It will be interesting to see how that works. It isn’t a cheap option if done correctly and it is also not one that brings with it instant success. They are not in a position to try to recreate a cheaper version of a model utilised by Celtic so this way they can innovate using a different approach to maximise their revenue.
When Gary Locke was sacked as Hearts manager and Craig Levein put in place as Director of Football they were lambasted but have since shown this was the correct way to go and as such have done really well with that strategy. It meant that when Robbie Neilson left for MK Dons and Ian Cathro was appointed, he fit into the structure that was already there. It took Cathro a little while to get up to speed but after Craig Levein brought in numerous players that Cathro could work with, the results have improved, certainly in the short term.
I am also really looking forward to reading Kris Boyd’s article when Rangers essentially copy the Hearts model. Will he criticise Rangers if they sign a relatively inexperienced coach to work under a Director of Football? I highly doubt it but considering his own choice for Rangers manager is Billy Davies, I suspect he might not approve or not understand what a DoF does.
The other candidates who have been mentioned for the Rangers manager’s job are of a traditional manager-type like Alex McLeish, Tommy Wright and Derek McInnes, none of whom would fit in with a modern management structure. They are all too ‘British’ in style to want to adopt this model. Even on BBC Sportsound, and after Robertson of Rangers had intimated they would go down the DoF route, you had pundits still clamouring for McInnes due to his experience and contacts. I genuinely think they fail to realise that the Director of Football role takes recruitment out of the hands of the ‘manager’. I don’t believe any of the people mentioned would entertain or excel in that type of structure.
I commend the Rangers MD and board for going down a modern route if that is the way they go. It is interesting to see how vastly different it is from the way Warburton/Weir/McParland operated considering only 8 months ago, Warburton won Manager of the Year and the football played and signings made were being lauded for trying to implement a modern style. How quickly a narrative can change.
I wouldn’t want to speculate that they are using this as a way of deflecting from their failures by implementing this new structure. It sounds like its been in the offing for some time. I hope Warburton/Weir/McParland didn’t get wind of that and that is why they wanted to look elsewhere…
Could it be that this strategy is to actually lower the expectations of the Rangers fans? Implementation of this type of management structure is unlikely to garner overnight success and with fans of the Ibrox club notoriously impatient then the club will have to be vocal to maintain sufficient transparency to manage those expectations.
Whatever structure that is implemented, it has to compete with the behemoth that is Celtic. That is a daunting task but if they are serious about it they wont just try to rush it due to the fear of 10 in a row and actually take the time to overhaul a failing football model. I don’t think that patience will exist amongst the Ibrox faithful but time will tell.