TECHNICAL DIRECTOR OF FOOTBALL
Direktor des Fußballs
Klaus Drechsler speaks to EDDY WHYTE as English Clubs visit Germany
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What has happened to the English game? One minute they are dominating the European club scene, the next, visiting Germany for advice on Technical Directors of Football.
Have all the billionaire oil sheiks now abandoned English shores and
set-up office in Germany? Have all their world class players crossed the
Channel for a new challenge at Bayern and Dortmund? Has the world media
switched off English football in the belief that the Bundesliga is the
new Hollywood? The answer to all of above is, no, but where there does
appear to be a major discrepancy, certainly when you draw comparisons
with other leading football nations, is in the way that the English clubs
are being managed. Instead of having an experienced Technical Director
to oversee all football operations, they continue to employ a standard
EUFA trained coach to run their clubs. In addition to coaching the first
team, their role can also include looking after the reserve team, under
twenty-one side, scouting network, player recruitment, dealing with agents,
medical and fitness support staff, overseeing youth development, community
schemes, and in some cases, they also have control over transfer budgets
The game has moved on from the old days of making a quick telephone call
to another local coach and securing a transfer deal. Football is now big
business which operates in an extremely complex and global marketplace.
Today, players, coaches, and investors are continually on the move and
making multi-million Euro deals on a daily basis. Get it wrong and the
very future of your club could be at stake, and it for this reason that
most of us have now fully embraced the expertise of a Technical Director
within a divided club structure; the business side which looks after the
financial development, and the football (technical) side.
To get a deeper insight into the English way of thinking, last month, I spoke to Eddy Whyte, a former player and coach at Monchengladbach, and now a football consultant in England (linked to the WVT group in Germany and Netherlands). I started off by asking him why English clubs have not properly adopted the modern Technical Director concept.
"Britain has always had a very strong cultural tradition, and with that comes a staunch resistance towards any form of change. You only have to look back to the early seventies when our trade unions brought the country to its knees and effectively destroyed all of our world class industrial heritage, car manufacturing, motorbikes, coal, steel, and shipbuilding. It was only after near complete decimation that any serious consideration was given to modern concepts, forward thinking, and futuristic planning. Football is no different. Ever since the game was invented British teams have always employed a team manger (head coach) to run all aspects of the footballing side, and this is the strong traditional cultural link that chairmen are now struggling to breakdown. Maybe, after many years of watching their mega million investments being squandered, they have now decided it is time for change, but we've been down this road before.
"When the British go abroad they always seek out a British bar to buy a British beer
. . . I think the time has now come for British clubs to go for a full continental"
Because of recent visits don't think that Germany is the chosen example, because in the past, our chairmen have also been to France, Spain, and Italy to see at first hand the continental Technical Director model. To date, only one club has actually adopted the full and true version, West Bromwich Albion. Some others went for an interpreted version, which they proudly refer to as their director of football, sporting director, general manger, or operations director, but in reality, they are all just recruitment mangers with large contact books and have no technical background whatsoever. The remainder decided to opt out altogether claiming that experienced mangers would refuse to join their clubs if they had a Technical Director already in position. When the British go abroad they always seek out a British bar to buy a British beer, a British cafe to buy traditional roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, and at all times insist on the people from that country speaking English . . . I think the time has now come for British clubs to go for a full continental".
In every other country to qualify as a pilot you gain the necessary flying qualifications, and if want to become a football coach then you attend the appropriate coaching courses, but in England it appears that a standard coaching qualification also entitles you to pilot the team plane! It begs the question, where are the owners and why are they allowing this to happen? It is their money, their investment, their business, they take all the risks, so surely they must call all the shots?
"Owners appoint CEOs to run their business, and in the main, the vast majority of them come from a business background with very little or no previous football experience. So who do they turn to for advice . . . the team manger! As far as he is concerned, the club is already split into two specific areas of expertise, the business side which the CEO runs, and the football side which he runs".
"A Technical Director in England is the same as a
recruitment agent or club ambassador on the continent"
"If the CEO suggests the appointment of a Technical Director then the manager may agree, but only as their 'assistant' and someone who works solely within the player recruitment department and has no say whatsoever in any other area. People like Franco Baldinin, Frank Arnesen, and Damien Comolli have all been referred to as Technical Directors within the English game, but this could not be further from the truth. There is no technical input. They are appointed as recruitment agents to work alongside the manager and use their worldwide contacts to attract players to the club, or as you would call it on the continent, club ambassadors".
If such a successful system then why do most of the top English clubs have foreign coaches, and why do they also employ so many young inexperienced managers straight out of coaching school? From what I can see, instead of spending most of their time on the training ground, the very job they are qualified to do, English coaches seem to be focussing too much on external issues, areas that can be undertaken more professionally by specialised staff. It also explains why young talented coaches cannot progress through the ranks, the way ahead is blocked by older team managers. For me, there is one blatant solution that fixes all. Why not appoint an experienced coach like Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger into the role of Technical Director, and then have a talented youngster as head coach. That way, you have the balance between experience and coach development.
"Most top coaches want to remain in the front-line as long as possible and consider any move upstairs to be a pen pushing admin post.From their perspective, they see things from the opposite angle. Experience is for the front-line and inexperience should be in the background. They must always be the key decision makers when it comes to team selection and tactics. On that basis, you can see why any young coach would perceive an ex-manager in the role of Technical Director as a potential threat. Someone who constantly interferes and overrules them. Both Sir Alex and Arsene rejected any offer to move upstairs, as have many others! In my opinion, the best kind of Technical Director is one that doesn't want to be a head coach, and therefore not a threat, but does have the experience and authority to hire and fire when necessary. In the UK managers are selected on the size of their contacts book and previous playing experience, not their coaching ability. In the eyes of chairmen, these individuals will contact their mates and attract all the international stars to their club, plus also gain the respect of existing playing staff. The UK game is all about contacts, and that goes for new team mangers, head of recruitment, and most of the background staff. No matter how talented you may be as a young coach, if you don't know the right people, then the door is firmly shut".