Damien Comolli was on the recent episode of The Football Manager podcast. They've added a DoF to the FM2013. If you've got no idea what I'm banging on about, FM is a football management game and for the first time ever you can appoint someone to handle the hiring and firing all members of staff, contracts, youth development, managing scouts, transfers etc. You can select the level of involvement for yourself (as manager) and the responsibility the DoF has at the club you're managing. If you have no interest in the game, you might still want to listen to the podcast as there's plenty said which retains massive interest in both Comolli's role at Spurs and what ultimately a DoF vision represents depending on what a football club seeks to get out of it.
We made a scapegoat of DC and in amongst all the name calling I think most of us know the system didn't work at Spurs because there seemed to be a lack of transparency on what the system actually was. An unnecessary cog in the wheel to most. The main complaint (from myself) was that it always appeared that our particular version of the DoF system was DoF > Coach. Consistency behind the scenes with the DoF selecting the coach/manager and supporting them in the transfer window. But as we all witnessed, when Comolli and others wanted to change things, they went ahead and did just that (removing Jol for Ramos). Comolli was given too much power and didn't compliment the system but rather consumed it in the end. Arnesen had a say in appointing Santini. Santini left, Jol was promoted. Jol and Arnesen worked well together. Arnesen left. Comolli was appointed. Jol was not the appointed one by Comolli and perhaps that's where the issue was birthed.
That's not to say that DC didn't have strengths. Again, we probably ignored the finer aspects of his job claiming that signing certain players wasn't such a big deal because they were hardly unknown transfer targets. He gives a couple of examples of the work his role entails on the podcast by telling a story about how Berbatov came to the Lane to watch us, only for Utd to win 1-0. After the game Berba told DC, "You're missing a striker like me". Took months of work, of talking, to get the player to decide it was for the best he signed with Spurs. Same with Gareth Bale. Sure, hardly unknown, but there was untold work (not just from DC but Levy got involved) to make sure Bale was ours in the end (the player was unsure about moving to Spurs with doubts on whether he would get any game time). All the grafting is something I guess we took for granted.
The crux of it is, the DoF (purely with transfers) is heavily involved in scouting, talking to players, agents, the players family and working with the chairman at the point of understanding and agreeing budget for wages/fee etc.
Comolli speaks about how it's impossible for a manager to cover all responsibilities without some assistance. Again, we probably get bogged down by titles. People reference Wenger and Ferguson as not working under a DoF system, but its not like they both do all the ground work for every deal. There are structures in place. There are structures at quite a few clubs and the 'system' has been around for several decades. It just didn't have a label that most of us scoff at.
The impression DC gives is that he works with the manager at all times and signs players the manager will agree to have (rather than the more continental and South American approach where coaches just work with the players given to them). So based on that, you expect that transfer wise - there was no issue with Martin Jol. On the surface. Politics of power ended that particular relationship.
"I never worked like this. I don't like. I work with the coach or the manager or the head coach (whatever you want to call it), I'm not working against him, I've always been saying 'what's the point in signing a player that the coach doesn't want because he won't play him - so it's money into the bin" - DC
There's some other interesting discussion points including how most successful youth development programs at football clubs have consistency by always retaining one person to oversee at academy level. The staffing outside of first team coaching is retained as this is a long term objective (and you only ever produce good youth players if the program is one that retains that consistency rather than losing it every time a new manager is appointed and restructuring occurs).
Since we scrapped the DoF at Spurs with the sacking of Comolli, we've witnessed how short term our transfer policy under Harry Redknapp and how the targeted players did not truly sit under any long term philosophy. Levy has worked as a General Manager for the club. Involved in signing players. Whether some players are proposed to the chairman outside of the remit of the coach, I don't know. I believe AVB accepted the new summer arrivals. There's no doubt Moutinho was one player he asked to have and we almost did before contract technicalities and last minute antics but that on hold for the time being. Levy is very proactive (say the 'relationship' with Real Madrid) but perhaps this role would be better occupied by someone that is truly a football man rather than a business one.
With the new training centre and the emphasis placed on youth development in recent years you can understand why we're rumoured to be looking for a director of football / technical director / call it what you want. To echo the sentiments of what was discussed on the FM podcast, as long as this position (one familiar to AVB from his time at Porto) was there to aid the coach in terms of the ilk of signings wanted along with personal preferences - then first team wise, AVB doesn't have to be heavily involved in the mundane parts of the process. Although, I really do think most managers are not heavily involved in that (aside from perhaps sometimes meeting players).
For me, having someone deal with the transfers will be better than having Levy deal with them. As long as the empowerment doesn't conflict with the coach - AVB is number one, the 'DoF' is number two. What matters more is the work that can be down with the academy and the scouting system (the latter especially needs refining). And a clear long term vision with the youth system with style of player and training along with players we seek to sign and add to the academy - this is what needs to be crafted and founded. Quite simply a DoF and the first team coach should be two separate positions both progressive and forward thinking and both complimenting each other and more importantly the ethos the club lays out (I'm not going to use the 'p' word here).
I'm all for Levy appointing someone. It's a long term assignment for certain. If things go wrong, if things don't work out at first team coaching level, then the chairman can appoint a new coach on advisement from the DoF. I guess that's how I would see it work, the problem last time out is that Comolli was the one that was truly doing the appointing and arguably his influence was too heavy handed and undermining.
It's about adapting a system that fits into your club and the clubs mantra. Have we learnt enough from the last attempt to make it work next time?
Interestingly, in the actual game FM2013 - you as a manager can hire and fire the DoF, rather than the other way round which tends to be the way it works at most clubs. But then, it is only a game.