Time to doff our hat to the potential return of the DoF?
Last week we recorded an emergency episode of The Fighting Cock podcast to cover Harry Redknapp's departure and the managers being linked with replacing him. Tim Sherwood was mentioned, not as a replacement but in connection with the alleged potential return of the DoF at the Lane. Firstly, my issue with this is simple. What is the basis for the rumour? Is it because the back to basics approach that replaced Comolli with Harry has come to an end? Or is it because Sherwood survived the cull that saw Allen, Bond and Jordan leave the club? I don't see how such an appointment would work or for that matter be feasible because of his complete lack of experience at the very highest level. It's a non-starter for him. Is it a non-starter full stop? Or is it only a non-starter when assuming the role is similar to past ones we've seen at the club?
If Levy was considering restructuring the hierarchy and re-introducing it, what exactly would the DoF system work when compared to its past ? I've written this article for my own process of dismissing the system from being a relevant option for Spurs to re-introduce. It's not really as in-depth as I set out to craft. It's just me moaning and waffling. You know the drill. I say a bunch of stuff out loud and hopefully in the mess you lot can pull out sound-bites and argue and debate amongst yourselves.
I've been asking myself that question over and over again. What exactly would the DoF system be if re-introduced at Spurs? Would it match the previous under Comolli or the one where Pleat acted like a glorified scout knocking heads with Hoddle and giving us joyful sagas such as 'Rebrov' and 'Diego'? I don't care for the footballing dictionary definition because of the variety of incarnations we've witnessed under the same chairman. Add to it the fact that other clubs are of no significance thanks to the rather sensational reason that other clubs are not THFC.
Under Comolli, the quintessential Spurs DoF appoints the coach/manager and they work in unison, a collaboration, to sign players that fit whatever formation and club model they agree upon with the chairman. It's a system completely reliant on both men being one hundred percent on the same page. It's long term aim is to create stability with transfers and potentially with ideology of said transfers, so that if the manager/coach is replaced the DoF brings in a new man and the transition isn't too disruptive. It's what Levy was advised to look into and introduce when he was still a footballing virgin, turning to advisor's for support. It works on the continent. It works in the NFL. But neither are the English Premier League. It also works in the lower divisions in England but the ambitions and stature of the clubs there provides a different type of working template and very different pressures on all concerned. Again, that's just my own opinion.
Arnesen replaced Pleat. He appointed Santini and then Jol. He left for Chelsea and Comolli took the role and eventually replaced Jol with Ramos. Hardly plain sailing. The ethos and scouting of Arnesen and pattern of incoming players was different to the one introduced by Comolli. I always saw DC as a chief go-getter of potential signings. Levy would rubber-stamp the air travel and off goes DC to bag Berbatov or Zokora (can't always get it right). DC does all the face to face work, easing pressure away from Levy and the manager. But then that just sounds like a more slick productive version of David Pleat.
My discomfort has always been that the DoF, regardless of the fact he's there to support the man he appoints along with the chairman, has too much influence and power that can undermine the coach. Santini struggled. In some ways we hit good form with the unexpected promotion of Martin Jol (conspiracy theorists will suggest Levy felt obliged to appoint Santini, a 'big name' to appease fans and media and Arnesen always had a keen eye on Jol taking the job. Perhaps there is some truth in there that long term, that was the plan, but it came to fruition early).
Jol was his own man but worked well with Frank and post-Arnesen to Chelsea continued to do a superb job before it all fell apart. Ramos was supposed to be the perfect coach for such a system, proving just how delicate and risky it is to implement. Highly rated, few doubted his abilities but we all doubted his lack of English speaking skills. More so the lack of apparent enthusiasm the players had for his tactics and match preparations. My main scratch of head here has been the fact that most successful managerial appointments do not work with someone looking down from above, packing as much punch as the man that selects the team. Ramos was the catalyst for the DoF system imploding at Spurs, never truly proving to be a genuine success. Even when Jol was leading us to top five finishes, the cracks still appeared and Comolli got itchy fingers (along with one or two others that sadly got ahead of themselves with our 'progress'). The only success was that some of the signings proved to be very good ones. But no different to any other prolonged period of time concerning players signed.
Levy scrapped it. Enter the wheeler dealer and the rest is very recent history.
Would most of the managers we've been linked with so far be comfortable working under a DoF or would they expect the chairman to trust their own judgement? Is it not more prudent to allow someone with ambitions that match the clubs to perhaps ask for changes to be made in scouting or youth development or for the club to offer this support to aid the new man at the helm?
I've always believed that a DoF can work as an administrator taking some of the more mundane responsibilities away from the manager. Mundane underplays it, what I mean is - if the manager wants to sign a striker he tells the 'DoF' what he requires and the DoF returns with the short list. Apparently, it's what Comolli did. But then Comolli did a lot more than that what with his dizzying offers to others. Technically speaking, he did what a DoF (dictionary describition) is meant to do, but that doesn't necessary make it the right thing to do at Spurs and in the English Premier League.
Also, the major bugbear I have with all of this concerns the fact that you could argue Daniel Levy is so hands on with transfers and building relationships with other clubs (i.e. Real Madrid and Internacional, two very different relationships) that in many ways he is a director of football. Or an acting General Manager at the very least. The assumptions made and usually confirmed by Redknapp via Sky Sports was that they would both 'discuss' potential targets. Levy famously telling Harry about van der Vaart's availability is one example. Another concerns the story that Pienaar was signed by the chairman and not wanted by the manager. Parker, another well documented disagreement between the two of them.
Their relationship degraded, we know that much. They didn't always see eye to eye to players. Whether it's true that Levy wanted to spend big but Redknapp only wanted the bargains and the cheap for the moment signings rather than players that can impact Spurs season positively over the next few years, that's something we won't quite know for sure (until the next man is appointed). Levy and Redknapp were not on the same page.
The chairman will always do the chasing but you could clearly tell which targets being linked to Spurs were Levy targets and which belonged to Harry. The conflict here is; if you trust the manager you back him you don't try to influence him into another direction because if you find yourself doing so then perhaps he's not the right man for the job you want him to do.
There is no need for a DoF at Spurs.
For a start, if you believe what you read in the press, we've gone after potential managers. We'd have to appoint a DoF first before we started interviewing anyone. There is no need for one I'm certain of it, but there is a necessity that Levy's vision is shared with the prospective manager and they both understand how best to improve and evolve Spurs together. A collaboration not based on job titles but one based on a clear understanding of the task ahead and how to achieve it (or die trying). The same page please.
I'd like to hope the plan is long term with the aim to sustain a challenge in the short term. I'd explain that hope with us signing the players we need to build on the side we have and avoid stagnation. No job in football is particularly easy but a job where the two most important people at the club fail to agree will be made impossible. Such a basic and obvious statement, and yet one that failed us not too long ago.
The director of system works on the continent because the culture is completely different there. Real Madrid is an example of a club signing players before appointing managers. But even they have gone through internal hardship with Jose Mourinho fighting for 'complete control'. I personally don't see the point in comparing football with any U.S. sport in terms of the DoF system. Mainly because their culture and structures are different to our own.
If you want to lighten the load on the manager that has to handle training, day to day business, match day preparation and transfer targets, assign him Tim Sherwood. Or define the role to be a more concrete long term position in the club to cater for youth development, say a technical director (as the suggested rumours). Not quite as interfering as a director of football. You'd think Sherwood must be doing something to impress behind the scenes. In fact, let the new manager ask the chairman for the personnel he requires to be able to comfortably do his job. Let the new man at the helm set up his boot room of soldiers so he can lead us into the battle as one unit with no politics holding us back from marching forwards. No Brutus for our Caesar. We do not need to complicate things and I doubt very much we will. So if Sherwood does end up with a position it will probably be one that will also benefit Levy, allowing him to concentrate on the stadium and other matters (like ENIC selling Spurs.../trollface).
As for the other slightly more important appointment we are all waiting on, I'm not going to guarantee we all agree on the man Levy does end up appointing. Just hope we can agree to back him.
Until Christmas at the very least.
If you're interested in more on this discussion including comparisons between the DoF system in the NFL, visit this thread for heated debate.