Communications breakdown: England's relationship with the Director of football


It's often said that there is no such thing as bad publicity, but Joe Kinnear has emphatically rubbished that notion in the last few days.


Newcastle United's new Director of Football has tweaked a frosty reception into unmitigated outrage with a combination of charmless bluster, a series of false statements and a barely believable lack of self-awareness. 


What it all means, unfortunately, is that the title of Director of Football is taking another kicking within these shores. It’s guilt by association. One can hardly blame English fans for regarding those three little words as a harbinger of doom given the manner in which the appointments are normally handled.


Far too often, a Director of Football has been dumped on an existing manager, publicly putting a question mark over his position and suggesting a major change of tack in the running of the football side of the club's operations.


The examples are easy to find; Harry Redknapp being given Velimir Zajec at Portsmouth in 2004, or Damien Comolli arriving at Tottenham in 2005. Comolli's moments of success at White Hart Lane should not be completely neglected, but the nature of the appointment was ham-fisted and he frequently clashed with the coach he inherited, Martin Jol.


In continental Europe, the Director of Football is often seen as an integral part of the successful running of sporting policy. The difference in terminology used by clubs outside England to describe the man who picks the team is perhaps worth looking at. In England, we still tend to say 'manager', rather than 'head coach', or 'trainer'. It implies some sort of super hero, who does everything - picks the team, decides the tactics, chooses and negotiates deals for new players and probably (as Bobby Gould did for Wimbledon's 1988 FA Cup semi-final against Luton) drives the bus to the ground too.


The closest we have to this is in today's Premier League is Arsene Wenger, and he is showing the strain. It is simply unrealistic to expect this British-style über-manager to exist in this day and age. Transfer deals are so multi-layered that clubs require a dedicated person to deal with them, and it is no coincidence that Arsenal have struggled with effective squad-building since David Dein - Wenger's de facto Director of Football - left the club in April 2007. 


A really good Director of Football is the one who provides continuity. A club needs to have a recruitment policy - buy young to develop and retain sell-on value, or horses for courses to achieve a particular objective and avoid too many changes, for example - and a philosophy that outlasts and overarches head coaches, who tend to come and go. Sevilla's director of football Monchi once built sides to win silverware and achieve Champions League football while making money on developing and selling on stars like Dani Alves and Julio Baptista - working with a series of different coaches.


There are examples of the post being filled intelligently and the job itself being done well in England – Nicky Hammond is approaching decade of sterling service at Reading, and Dan Ashworth’s organisational skills at West Brom were ao renowned that he was appointed the FA’s director of elite development in September.


These two are united by one characteristic; their good work is so discreet that it often goes unnoticed. Just as slotting a Director of Football into an existing situation rather than building a plan around one makes little sense, neither does employing a man who will be making more headlines than smart deals.

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