Tottenham & Newcastle exemplify English football's love-hate relationship with Director of Football model

Both clubs have looked to introduce the position into their clubs to varying degrees of success, with the sacking of Joe Kinnear showing the pitfalls of England's latest fashion
By Greg Stobart

If you want to know why the director of football role is viewed with such suspicion by managers and supporters in English football, why not ask Joe Kinnear?

"If I was a director of football and the manager was struggling and got the old tin-tack, I would tell them that I'd take over," he declared in June 2012, summing up the culture of fear and distrust surrounding the position - such figures are automatically assumed to be eyeing the manager's job or signing players without their consent.

Kinnear, of course, changed his tune after being appointed to that very position by Newcastle last summer. Only here to help out Alan Pardew, an intermediary between the training ground and Mike Ashley, nothing to see here. A series of blunders, no permanent signings, the sale of star man Yohan Cabaye and eight months later, he left St James's Park for the second time.

Tottenham's summer signings

Midfielder (£17m)

Nacer Chadli
Midfielder (£7m)

Roberto Soldado
Striker (£27m)

Etienne Capoue
Midfielder (£9m)

Vlad Chiriches
Defender (£8.5m)

Christian Eriksen
Midfielder (£11.5m)

Erik Lamela
Midfielder (£25.7m)
Newcastle recruits in 2013-14

Loic Remy
Striker (Loan)

Luuk de Jong
Striker (Loan)
In sacking Roberto Di Fanti for a disastrous summer spending spree and giving Gus Poyet control of transfers, Sunderland took the same decision in January. However it is Tottenham, who visit St James' Park on Wednesday, where the director of football model was first embraced in British football.

Spurs chairman, Daniel Levy decided on the need for someone overseeing football operations in 2003 when, after sacking Glenn Hoddle, he travelled Europe to visit the most successful clubs and assess how they operated.

Levy was particularly intrigued by the Dutch model, based on bringing through youngsters from their impressive coaching and academy structures while using their scouting systems to sign potential superstars.

When Frank Arnesen, the PSV sporting director, explained how he discovered talents like Ronaldo, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Jaap Stam and Arjen Robben, Levy decided to offer the Dane a job.

The key tenet of the director of football model is to create continuity in the playing philosophy and recruitment strategy regardless of the head coach, meaning that a change in manager does not necessitate a complete squad rebuild.

Arnesen and Damien Comolli were the first two men to take on the role, overseeing strategies for first-team and youth-team development while using contacts across the world to work on scouting players and negotiating for transfer targets.

Comolli lost his job in 2008 but Spurs brought back the model when Franco Baldini was appointed as technical director last year. An £110 million spending spree on seven internationals followed as Gareth Bale left for Real Madrid in a world-record £86m deal.

Yet several of those signings have so far failed to shine, most notably £26m striker Roberto Soldado and £30m winger Erik Lamela, and, combined with the departure of Andre Villas-Boas in December, Baldini's position is now under scrutiny.

The Italian has a scratchy relationship with Tim Sherwood, the new head coach who vetoed the club's attempts to bring in new players during the January transfer window.

Sherwood wants the final say on transfers and, most importantly, does not trust Baldini's judgement after last summer. While the Italian does not interfere in the boss's job on a day-to-day basis, there needs to be an alignment in the strategy of Spurs' transfer committee.

Former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp is one of the most vocal critics of the director of football model. In November 2004, he resigned as Portsmouth boss after Velimir Zajec was brought above him. Redknapp felt undermined and feared that Zajec was after his job. Indeed, the Croatian swiftly parachuted down into the manager's office.

16/5 Tottenham are 16/5 with PaddyPower to beat Newcastle with both teams to score
Redknapp could see it coming. After all, he had done exactly the same to Graham Rix to get the Portsmouth job in the first place in March 2002.

Sir Alex Ferguson would never have stood for a director of football, nor would Arsene Wenger, but, in one form or another, Chelsea, West Brom, Stoke City, Crystal Palace, Manchester City, Tottenham and Fulham all have someone in that position.

The size and complexity of modern football means that a manager needs help. They need a scouting system, they need someone looking after academies, they need administrators working on the ins-and-outs of transfers and contracts.

The problem arises when the man upstairs has a bigger ego than the man on the training ground, who is ultimately held responsible for results by supporters and the media.

Where it seems to work is when the director of football goes about his job in a more understated style and allows the manager to concentrate on coaching. Take West Brom, where Dan Ashworth provided continuity in the playing and recruitment philosophy before reuniting with Roy Hodgson at the Football Association.

The early relationship between Txiki Begiristain and Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City also appears to be working well. The Chilean certainly has more understanding of the club's strategy and finances than his predecessor, Roberto Mancini, who made unrealistic demands of the Abu Dhabi owners.

Chelsea have won the Champions League and Europa League since Michael Emenalo's appointment as technical director but most people would barely notice the Nigerian if they saw him in the street.

Emenalo, though, is a far cry from Joe Kinnear. And, as Newcastle debate a reversion back to the tried and tested combination of manager Pardew and chief scout Graham Carr, that is why English football is still trying to get to grips with the continental sytem.

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