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Top Contenders for our next ‘Director of Football’

The recent high-profile sackings of Fulham’s Alan Curbishley, Sunderland’s Roberto De Fanti and – somewhat closer to home – our very own Joe Kinnear, have brought the role of a ‘director of football' into disrepute.

However, this role is vital in the running of a successful modern-day football club. A director of football can provide an element of consistency and stability to the more administrative aspects of a club, in particular player recruitment: scouting, deal negotiation and convincing the player in question to join the club.

Not only this, but the idea is to create a philosophy which the head coach is not in charge of – rather, he simply fits into it. From training ground facilities to academy coaching, from player recruitment to the first team’s playing style, the intention is for everything the club does to fit together and create a coherent whole.

Meanwhile, the traditional role of ‘manager’ can morph into the more continental approach of having a ‘head coach’ – with the brief of picking the players who go out on the pitch and coaching them to fulfil their potential.

A template for the ideal DoF situation comes, typically, from Barcelona. Txixi Begiristain’s time serving his former playing club as a DoF oversaw the implementation of a strategy which yielded three Champions League trophies in the space of five years (in 2006, 2009 and 2011), and the construction of arguably the greatest club side of all time.

Throughout this time the Catalans were able to transition seamlessly between coaches as the stability of the club itself remained intact. Begiristain is currently employed by Manchester City, as they attempt to replicate the success of the Spanish giants.

Some potential suitors for Newcastle are as follows…

Damien Comolli:

Experience includes spells as DoF with AS Saint-Etienne, Tottenham Hotspur and, most recently, Liverpool. A good CV, however, on closer inspection Comolli appears to offer everything you wouldn’t want in a prospective DoF.

Blamed for financial difficulties at ASSE – having spent 18.7m in one summer on seven players, only one of whom turned out to be a first team regular, the theme continued at Liverpool where he presided over the overpriced signings, including our very own Andy Carroll, which littered the Dalglish era there. Between these lay his spell with Tottenham, which is best remembered for his falling-outs with both Martin Jol and Juande Ramos. It’s a no for me.

Nicola Cortese:

Currently out of work, which is handy as Mike Ashley is unlikely to pay a compensation fee to employ someone currently at another club, Cortese enjoyed a lengthy spell at Southampton from 2009 until his resignation earlier this year. Although not a footballing man, Cortese was appointed as a director of the club with the principal role of developing the long term strategy for the football club and the business. Undoubtedly he was successful, with the club rising from League 1 to 8th in the Premier League in that time.

Indeed, his importance was underlined when manager Mauricio Pochettino declared last season that if Cortese were to quit, he would do so also (although this turned out not to be true!). Cortese could be a smart appointment were Ashley to take this direction, however: this is a man whom has sacked Alan Pardew in the past. In November 2012 Pardew told BBC Radio Newcastle: “me and the chairman didn’t see eye to eye”: perhaps the two would not work particularly well together.

Kevin Keegan:

An incredibly unrealistic choice given the tensions between Keegan and Mike Ashley, there is no way Keegan would work under the current regime. However, if we allow our imaginations to wander, it becomes clear that Kevin Keegan would be a fantastic Director of Football for Newcastle United.

A cult hero during his playing and managing days at the Club, his legendary status would be vital in the player recruitment side of the role. In a recent interview with True Faith, Rob Lee spoke about the effect Keegan had when he joined: speaking of Keegan’s great ability to “find players, scout players and get players to sign for him”. A ringing endorsement indeed – all qualities which would stand a DoF in good stead.


This strategy does, unfortunately, appear to be the most realistic, depressing though this may be. Ashley has already signalled his intent by declaring that no replacement for Kinnear shall be sourced this season.

Furthermore, Ashley’s two DoF appointments in his tenure at NUFC have both been ‘jobs for the boys’ – Joe Kinnear and Dennis Wise both criminally underqualified. Thus, combining his cost-cutting and friend-prioritising qualities, we may see the return of Derek Llambias in more of a ‘financial director’ role, if anything.

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