English clubs · English league · European football · Football finances & business · Football managers

A Director Of Football, Anyone?

Perhaps Tottenham Hotspur should not have replaced Martin Jol with Juande Ramos last October. Martin Jol was appointed coach of SV Hamburg at the end of last season. Hamburg, who have not won the Bundesliga since 1983, are currently top after 7 games. Tottenham are currently bottom of the Premier League after the same number of games.

The real issue at Tottenham appears to be the role of Spurs’ director of football, Damien Comolli, who decides, or has a significant say, in all transfers by the club.

Recent reports indicate that Ramos is growing increasingly angry over the sale of Robbie Keane (to Liverpool) and Dimitar Berbatov (to Manchester United), without bringing in suitable replacements. Perhaps Spurs should have sold Berbatov earlier, instead of holding out for an extra couple of million pounds, and used the fee received to buy at least one proven goalscorer.

Martin Jol had similar grievances with Comolli. Soon after his departure from Spurs, Jol was reported as saying that his position at the club was undermined by Comolli’s transfer dealings. He was further quoted as saying “I felt the squad would be unbalanced with these signings and it proved to be the case. The funny thing is the new manager will probably come to the same conclusion ….”

Both Alan Curbishley (at West Ham) and Kevin Keegan (at Newcastle) resigned soon after the close of the transfer window on 1 September 2008 over a lack of control over transfers. Both clubs had the equivalent of a director of football – Dennis Wise at Newcastle United and Gianluca Nani at West Ham United.

(As an aside, Keegan won a Bundesliga title with Hamburg back in 1979, after his transfer from Liverpool in 1977. Liverpool brought in Kenny Dalglish to replace him, and continued to dominate English football for a further 13 years.)

Directors of football are commonplace in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. It would appear that the position does not translate well in England.


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