The case for a Director of Football at Celtic

The departure of Ange Postecoglou to Tottenham Hotspur, as hard as it has been to take, could prove to be a blessing in disguise for Celtic if – and it is a very big very if – the board are prepared to see this as an opportunity to modernise the football operations at the club.

I understand that may involve some wishful thinking given the board’s history of dithering and failure to future-proof the club during the 10-in-a-row attempt.  However, we once again find ourselves at a crossroads with one of the paths open to us being the chance to modernise how we run the club.

While admitting that the most important immediate appointment is that of a manager to replace Ange, a close second on the list should be the appointment of a Director of Football/Technical/Sporting Director.

Learning from past good fortune

We are all fully aware of the public courting of Eddie Howe back in the summer of 2021 and the scramble to find an alternative when Howe’s planned appointment went pear-shaped.  The club would have you believe that Ange was always in the running for the job, but timelines on his appointment and how close he was to taking up the AEK Athens job, would suggest otherwise.

We lucked out with Ange, especially after Dom McKay’s swift departure left the Australian as the de facto Technical Director alongside this job as manager.

With Ange now gone and a mild panic ensuing over who the next manager should be, it is time for the Celtic board to step up, do their due diligence on multiple candidates, and hire a replacement with the skill set required to improve on Ange’s work.

If the chosen candidate has previous for working under a Director of Football, then all the better.

Why we need a Director of Football

The role of a Director of Football is to define and implement a long-term strategy for the club, thus providing a level of continuity in approach regardless of whether the manager changes every two seasons.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Celtic’s position in European football’s food chain leaves us open to players and managers moving on ahead of schedule; certainly, ahead of the schedule we, as fans, place on our star assets leaving.

We don’t need to like this, but we do need to accept that a club of our size can only hang on to our most prized assets for two or three seasons at the most before wealthy admirers take them away.

Having someone in place above the manager, or most likely a head coach, whose remit includes looking after player and staff recruitment, along with overseeing all football operations, should help to bring more stability to the club and maintain a focus on the long-term goals.

It becomes his responsibility to identify transfer targets that meet the desired skillset and playing style adopted by the club.  It also becomes his responsibility to maintain a watch list of managers and coaches who could replace the current incumbent if needed with as little disruption to the team as possible.

By overseeing the football operations of the club, the Director of Football allows the head coach to focus more on coaching and putting a winning side out on the pitch.  The Director of Football himself is focused on improving all facets of the club to give his head coach the best possible chance to succeed.

Bringing Celtic into the 21st Century

The role is common on the continent, especially in Germany, Italy, and Spain where there is less attachment to the coach or manager needing to be involved in every aspect of the club, in particular the recruitment of players. This differs from the traditional British approach where the manager is the kingpin.

It would be a bold move for Celtic to create this type of role but I see clear benefits in doing so.  The head coach is freed up to focus on coaching and planning for games; the Director of Football sets the overarching strategy for the club and works with all football departments to make sure they function properly.

There is continuity should the manager move on as the football philosophy doesn’t change.  And to counter the thought that the head coach is no longer involved in player recruitment, he should still have a say in the process, just not the only say in the process.

European football has evolved its structures since Celtic won the European Cup in 1967, but the way we run our club has largely remained the same.  Perhaps now is the time to change that and embrace a new approach that welcomes a more modern way of thinking to the club.

Kevin McCluskie

Leave a Reply