Make Your Case: Is A Director Of Football Necessary?

Jamie McDonald

This weeks edition of Make Your Case see's Karl Jones go head-to-head with a new name but a familiar face, it's host of the Wise Men Say Podcast, Stephen Goldsmith as they look at whether or not a Director of Football is even necessary at Sunderland...

Karl Jones: Reasons NOT To Have A Director Of Football

I realise that I'm kind of swimming against the tide here, but appointing a Director of Football would be the latest in a line of figurehead type moves.

From the six-figure fee that David Milliband earned from the club, to ‘Nelson Mandela Day' at the Stadium of Light earlier this season (has James Allan, founder of this great club, ever had one of those?), the efforts that the club has put in other areas could well have been focussed on first team matters. A Director of Football will presumably take a large salary - quite possibly akin to Milliband's - but that money would be better earmarked for immediate squad improvement. It may not be much in the grand scheme of things, but that extra finance could be the difference in negotiating a potential signings' contract.

Having someone coming in to oversee the whole process could well be beneficial, especially when Sunderland are making significant strides in developing partnerships all over the world, but given that the club has sent its own coaches out in the past to assess and assist the standard of coaching, that could and should fall under the head of development's remit. Again, should a player emerge from Asante Kotoko, for example, that is ready for the first team then that should be for the scouting side of things to decide. It almost goes without saying that Di Canio leads all first-team affairs and without someone looking down on him, his influence isn't diminished - Carlo Ancelotti's work at Paris Saint-Germain seems somewhat compromised by Leonardo's presence as Sporting Director.

There is no doubt that Sunderland's turn towards a more foreign model has a number of benefits; the buy-low-sell-high policy of Udinese (among others) would give Sunderland more of a fighting chance to establish itself as a top-half mainstay in the Premier League with further financial control on the horizon. The addition of a Director of Football, however, is one aspect that I feel we could do without.

Stephen Goldsmith: Reasons TO Have A Director Of Football

When arguing for or against a director of football, it's entirely circumstantial to the individual club you're relating it to. Teams in Britain have tried people in this role rather unsuccessfully over the years before generally reverting back to type; the manager who picks the team, picks his scouts and buys his own players. The standard failings of this system that takes full control away from the manager, has been generally down to disagreement and confrontation that inevitably follows.

But times are changing and this is where the circumstances at Sunderland are important. There doesn't need to be a clear definition of a director of football in general terms, some will have more autonomy than others in many different areas and at different clubs. I think it makes sense for Sunderland to now go down a route of employing one.

Ellis Short is a pretty damn good owner, something of which we can all agree. There's no doubting his levels of naivety in football though. I think it's palpable he beats himself up over this, as if he sees it as a clear chink in the armour of any bullish billionaire businessman. Niall Quinn was always his advisor and it was kind of his blueprint that the owner bought into and funded. But while some argue he should be replicating a similar advisory role for someone else, we must remember that the time for an overhaul in the scouting system is already upon us. It seems logical to have somebody employed to oversee it; trying to find the balance between what kind of player the manager wants and how many million coppers the owner can save in providing him. This is a necessity in Sunderland's specific situation at present. Stability and success on the player recruitment front is long overdue, find me fan who would argue that point.

The manager we currently have is also relevant. Di Canio's title is Head Coach, remember, a title which makes clear the duties he's expected to carry out here. He evidently spends his working day on the group of players and how he can best make them function as a team. He should continue to focus his attention here solely, how often do we hear managers complain of spending hours on the phone searching for contacts and enquiring about players? It simply isn't logical in the modern game. No, Ellis Short doesn't want his managers doing this; he wants them on the training ground or in the analysis room. It's hard to disagree, especially given the ineptitude of what we've seen on the pitch and in the transfer market in recent years.

Of course we see the problems with these dual management formats, a lot of European clubs take all transfer responsibility away from the managers and that's hardly productive. That won't happen here though, Di Canio walked out of Swindon because of it remember. Like everything in life, it's about trial and error and we seem to be moving into an era where the continental and British models are being fused together. Di Canio will have the type of players in mind and he will be likely provided with a short list and the assurance that contact has already been made. It's time for the labour to be shared.

It's also something that could make Mr. Short's life easier in the long term. Hiring a successful manager can often be largely down to fortune. I'm not sure Bob Murray truly believed that Peter Reid would have made the impact he did here when he hired him. When Reid was replaced by the wrong man, it all came crashing down here and it took years to put right. Sides like West Brom have developed this system where managers have been replaced seamlessly, this could be a chance for us to try and do something structured of our own. I guess the obvious analogy to make is comparing a manager to a cog in a machine. Replacing it with a part from a different manufacturer can be a very costly and risky procedure. What a director of football/head coach combo brings is two smaller cogs operating simultaneously, meaning if just one breaks or needs replacing then it's less catastrophic and risky to replace it.

With whom do you agree? Vote in our poll below or leave a comment!

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