Casualties of a foreign creed

Phil Shaw examines conflicting roles at clubs who adopt a Continental structure
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The Independent Online
Just as a trickle of leading European players are bringing a little foreign fantasy to the hurly burly of English football, the Continental concept of devolving the myriad duties previously encompassed by the title of "manager" has suffered a loss of credibility.

Kenny Dalglish is not the first casualty of a conflict of roles within a club - or a failure to define them adequately - though he is the most celebrated. Ten days earlier, the departure from Arsenal of his former Scotland team-mate, Bruce Rioch, had its origins in an attempt to to create the framework favoured by clubs in France, Italy and Spain.

The Arsenal board were determined Rioch would effectively be first-team coach, with David Dein, the vice-chairman, and Ken Friar, the managing director, in charge of transfers and other financial matters. This division of responsibilities, influenced by the George Graham "bungs" affair, was at odds with the way the manager's job has evolved in Britain. Rioch's sacking, though surprising in its timing, became inevitable.

A quarter of a century earlier, when Wilf McGuinness accepted the poisoned chalice of succeeding Sir Matt Busby, Manchester United gave Busby the job of administrative and general manager. More than one occupant of the Old Trafford hot seat felt the pressure of working in an office adjacent to such a distinguished practitioner.

Despite its prevalence abroad, only a handful of English clubs use the title Dalglish has now relinquished. At Southampton, the former manager Lawrie McMenemy is literally the director who liaises with the manager, Graeme Souness. After last season's brush with relegation, he remained on the board while the manager, Dave Merrington, collected his P45.

Crystal Palace and Hereford also appointed directors of football at the same time as Blackburn. Steve Coppell, a former Palace manager, returned to Selhurst Park ostensibly to be overlord of playing matters - two coaches would answer to him and there was grandiose talk of emulating Ajax's youth policy - only for the chairman, Ron Noades, to decide the set-up was not working to his satisfaction.

Midway through last season, Noades installed Dave Bassett, the archetypal old-fashioned manager, with Coppell applying his talents behind the scenes. At Hereford, Graham Turner is also manager in the traditional sense, coaching and selecting the side, marshalling the club's meagre resources. The antithesis, in fact, of the popular image of the director of football as articulated by Harry Redknapp.

"Players don't want to retire and be managers any more," the West Ham manager said. "They want to be directors of football - that's definitely the one to have. Pick your games, keep an eye on the rest, no real pressure. Come in on a Saturday, sit in the boardroom, nice cup of tea, nice gin and tonic. Say: 'Well, this is the way I'd do it. Anyway, I'm off'.

"In the meantime the manager is sitting on the bench, screaming like an idiot. I know what I'd rather have."

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