Aaaaaaaaaaand we're off!
Franco Baldini confirmed as Technical Director sees Tottenham making the move back to the continental way of doing things granting Andre Villas-Boas his wish and allowing Daniel Levy to sit back and focus on the new stadium (we hope) whilst a footballing man caters for our footballing future.
I've written about this once or twice already this summer but I guess it's worth reiterating that we have not taken a step back into the murky waters of the old 'director of football' swamp where many a man has drowned.
Unlike the past, there is complete transparency with this new appointment. In fact, considering our coach has already name checked Baldini and the importance of a technical director, Villas-Boas is deeply involved with the remodelling of Spurs. To think he was PSG bound according to the desperate media coverage.
In comes a man with experience at top level football with a very specific responsibility to fulfil at a club that requires structure. Tottenham need to retain their competitiveness and balance the present with the future without sacrificing one for the other.
We all look towards the fruition of our new training centre and the growth and development of our academy teams and youth policy. This remains key to longevity in terms of producing home grown talent that can break into our first team (something we've lacked for years, besides one or two stand-outs). This is paramount. It's the engine room of the club and we need more than just the one engineer to work its mechanics.
With our current methodical preparation and scientific approach, each area of the football management team has to complement each other. I'm not suggesting we suddenly turn into Barcelona in how players are trained at youth levels through to maturity, but considering the facilities at our disposal and our forward thinking coach, this template is one that has to transcend through this season and beyond.
We spent the best part of a decade simply hiring and firing managers with no actual master-plan. There lacked a genuine blueprint of artistry, a criminal mistake. But since Levy first introduced the DoF system, we have gradually worked our way through its learning curve.
The key element of any 'director of football/technical director' role is longevity. The biggest of all the historical soundbites blessed upon us in the past concerned how the DoF would be the one constant, easing in a new coach if required. A coach that could slot in and continue the work the DoF had implemented and pick up where the previous coach left without a heavy handed transitional period. A seamless society.
The coach has to fit the club and the clubs structure. That hasn't quite worked because we've never quite got it right and the impression I've been left with is that prior systems were always far too lopsided with the preference of true power owned by the DoF, power that distorted the job the coach undertook.
Strip it all away, we are talking about working relationships. Professionals all pulling in the same direction, all as one but each with their own expertise. If one part doesn't work, it needs to be replaced. There was never much subtly in previous years with how the whole DoF system worked. It will be very interesting to see how Baldini adapts and eases into the job at hand. No doubt, first port of call will be decisiveness in the transfer market. The rest, the long term planning and building, will be part of his every day work ethic. Players for the present the ones we wish to see gift wrapped.
AVB obviously wants to work with someone that has expert knowledge on targeting said players and no doubt Daniel Levy wants to retain some of his own mantra of buying young and selling them on for big fees (or at least have the potential to do so).
What Baldini's appointment achieves from the off is bridging the gap that currently exists and eradicating any confusion in who exactly scouts/targets any prospective players. AVB will ask for a particular type of player and Baldini will do the appropriate ground work assisted by his comprehensive contact list. Levy might still handle the contract negotiations. Unlike say Comolli who appeared to have more empowerment, jetting off to sign the likes of Berbatov himself.
The quote from Levy (on the official site) referencing 'the field of recruitment' would suggest that Baldini will also seek to employ coaches and other key positions such as scouts to fit into this new age Tottenham. Longevity again the key.
Okay. So maybe the transparency isn't quite as clear as a sun kissed blue sky, but it's most definitely not dark and wet like any given day in February...or our not so colourful past when discussing the DoF system.
If you look to that erratic past, Arnesen did a relatively solid job in terms of consistency of captures, by matching Levy's mantra (buy British) which was the foundation (eventually) for Martin Jol to build his side on and elevate us to heights we hadn't experienced for many years and arguably heights that we've refused to let go of ever since.
That all came about thanks to the departure of Jacques Santini, with Jol promoted to first team coach. It was almost felt like Arnesen knew what he was doing here having Jol as number two (an appointment he made). Santini failed to adapt and wasn't happy working with Arnesen. The flaw with this doomed partnership was the lack of transparency. Not so much for us on the outside looking in but between chairman, coach and Arnesen himself - a 'general manager' of sorts, scouting youth players and signing first teamers. I can't get the memory out of my head that when Carrick arrived, Santini seemed very nonplussed about it.
If you're told to just look after first team affairs whilst someone else is buying the players and you're not comfortable with this system or willing to work to make it work, then it's never going to work. It didn't last long and he was gone.
For as long as the Jol and Arnesen tag-team was together, the system appeared to fit without too much criticism or distraction. Like any 'DoF', some signings work, others won't. There was a period of time where it all looked promising, but in hindsight, the best signings were the ones that Levy would have expected as a requirement of his 'Buy British' mantra (Huddlestone, Dawson). The rest made us competitive at the time but all would move on when the next chapter unfolded. Then came the flirtation with Chelsea, and Frank was gone.
Comolli replaced him and was given the actual title of 'DoF'. Where Arnesen had a clear strategy with signings, Comolli also worked to bring in talent but perhaps not always befitting the moment in terms of when said player(s) finally found their feet and made an impact at Spurs. The strategy at times was more centric to finding a star player rather than build towards a group of players that would shape a solid fluid dynamic.
But still, we can't frown at the likes of Bale, Berbatov, Modric, Woodgate, Kaboul (second time lucky), BAE (eventually) to name a few. There were again plenty that didn't make the grade, but arguably - this is going to happen at most clubs. I'm sure Baldini would only like to refer to De Rossi, Batistuta, Samuel, Higuain, Marcelo, van Nistelrooy and avoid the lesser names. I'm sure Comolli wouldn't want you mentioning Bentley.
Comolli also scouted/signed players at youth level and in terms of Baldini, it will be interesting to see how he ties in with Tim Sherwood (if anyone can confirm what it is that Sherwood does exactly, that might aid with understand that particular relationship better).
What Comolli didn't do is fully support Martin Jol. Why? Because the structure in place was simply this: The DoF was the main coordinator that looked to have the right coach working below him and then sign the players he wished to further aid the coach with. If Santini had Carrick, Jol has Murphy. At times, those signings didn't appear to match up with the requirements of the team and the coach.
The one thing that stands out (with the Comolli era) is that even with a DoF in place, we still made very Tottenhamesque types of signings (Bentley, Bent for example). In 2006, in the January transfer window, we didn't consolidate when we could have truly added to the squad so that we retained our position till the end.
The political fall out saw Jol pushed out and Ramos signed with dizzying effect. With the emphasis all on Comolli to succeed, the experiment failed. Ramos lost his way completely after the Carling Cup final and Levy wielded the axe like a Lannister on a Stark. Comolli had to take responsibility for the change he (along with others at board level Tottenham) wanted.
Even though Comolli
worked at scouting youth players and bringing in big name signings,
there was no genuine long term structure at play in terms of strategy
and planning and more so the necessity to build a unit rather than a
collective of talent that doesn't necessary work well under the coach. This was the greatest of all the contradictions. Redknapp inherited
footballers that did not have an identity as a team and yet got them
playing as one, famously, over-turning a miserable start to the season
and continuing to build on it. Ramos was unable to get them playing to
his tactics and selection. Why? Wrong players or simply tactics that
went well over their capacity when taking the field? And if so, the
support from Comolli was to sign players for him that further compounded
that misery which was resolved with 'back to basics' football rather than players Ramos and his tactics demanded.
It's unclear if Baldini will have the responsibility to replace AVB if he was to move on in the future (a responsibility Comolli had and one Baldini held without sustained success at Roma). 'Field of recruitment' would suggest he will but the good news is - Baldini and Villas-Boas want to work with each other so we have little too concern ourselves with and even less necessity to keep looking over our shadow at our troubled past.
What we have now and going forward looks to be a far more stable, logical and intelligent system that will have our coach oozing confidence because of it. AVB has someone to do all the work for him, to support him and deal directly with the chairman, players and the headache of transfer discussions with opposing clubs and agents. Baldini can also go about polishing the infrastructure as he sees fit to further improve youth recruitment and first team refinement. A new improved mantra that future coaches, technical directors and chairmen can adhere to.
Levy, can continue to be shrewd if he so wishes, but he has to fully support the system he has implemented. Which will mean backing both AVB and Baldini when they knock on his door with the list of our most wanted. One improvement I'm keen to see develop is a shift in the type of players we are linked with (i.e. not the obvious repeated list that we are treated to every window). Our options and scouting network has quite possibly changed over night.
From our perspective (the supporters), no doubt, we have a new potential scapegoat to aim our dissatisfaction at. Although if Levy does take ownership of negotiations once a target has been agreed upon, then we might still face those seasonal problems we are always entertained with and default to the more traditional scapegoat. Which has most of us hoping that a further improvement would be to lay rest the brinkmanship of last minute deals, most of which collapse without recovery.
Baldini is a heavyweight appointment and it strengthens us for the season ahead and gives us the basis to build on that so that the momentum seized in the past several seasons is never lost.
Baldini at Spurs is a good thing.