Sheffield Wednesday and a warning. By all means hire a director of football – as long as you ensure the relationship with the manager (head coach) is right from the very start.
Job definitions have become blurred. Stuart Gray’s actual title is in brackets above but he’s still had a largely traditional managerial role and it’s worked pretty well within limitations.
As for director of football, it can mean anything from being “shoved upstairs” to the most powerful position in a club outside of owner or chairman.
Wednesday have to be careful with the latter – if it means the DoF is effectively picking the players that the manager (coach) works with. Let’s be honest, that doesn’t work.
Ask former Newcastle “boss” Alan Pardew who can barely have heard of some of the foreign players foisted up him and who has found sanity again at Crystal Palace. Ask any Sunderland supporter after the chaotic conditions that engulfed Gus Poyet and before him Paolo Di Canio (albeit he made a contribution there).
Ask bemused followers of Brentford where the owner’s idea of progress is to cast adrift probably the most successful manager in the club’s history. You don’t need a snazzy new “model” if the current one is working.
Go back a few years to some internal strife at Tottenham and Liverpool where, following ructions, the director of football was removed. His name in both cases was Damien Comolli. Which brings us to the Frenchman being linked with the Owls’ search for a DoF under new owner Dejphon Chansiri.
Whoa. Nothing necessarily wrong with that. Comolli is a high-powered figure. In his earlier days at Arsenal, he was instrumental in delivering a raft of fine players, including Kolo Toure and Emmanel Eboue. Blimey, he’s credited with setting up the Spurs youth policy that netted Gareth Bale and he signed Luka Modric among others. Then Luis Suarez and Jordan Henderson at Liverpool.
It has to be seen as a sign of Chansiri’s ambition and intent that Wednesday are being mentioned in the same breath as one of the game’s biggest movers and shakers, a clever multi-lingual operator with enviable global contacts.
But let’s remember this is currently a Championship club. A high-flyer like Comolli could only be lured for multiples of Gray’s salary, which I’m guessing to be around £250,000 a year. No prizes for guessing who might be be firing the shots.
Not that Gray’s stretched management team don’t need help. They could do without some of the admin and, in tandem with an experienced chief executive Paul Aldridge, installing a structural football head makes sense. Providing the man running the team on the pitch has, at the very least, a major input on buying and selling. Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger could tell you that the alternative makes no sense whatsoever.
Besides, Wednesday are in a different market to Comolli’s right now. Yes, it can be more economic shopping abroad. But check out the leading Championship clubs and the
top scorers are mostly the best of British – Patrick Bamford (Middlesbrough), Callum Wilson (Bournemouth), Cameron Jerome (Norwich), Troy Deeney (Watford), Andre Gray (Brentford), Chris Martin (Derby).
It wouldn’t take an international scout to pick the players who can win promotion given a few bob to spend.
But, for all that, I’d back a big appointment for what is a big long-term project at a big club. Including the main proviso above. That has to be the bottom line.