Rangers ‘must appoint director of football before manager’

Robbie Neilson worked under a director of football at Hearts. Picture: Toby Williams
Robbie Neilson worked under a director of football at Hearts. Picture: Toby Williams
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Robbie Neilson has warned Rangers they risk “friction” if they appoint a new boss before hiring a director of football.

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The former Hearts manager has first-hand experience of the model from his time working with Craig Levein at Tynecastle.

But he reckons Gers - who plan to introduce a director of football in the wake of Mark Warburton’s departure - will be making a big mistake if they bring in a new manager first.

Neilson, now in charge at MK Dons, told Press Association Sport: “The most important thing is that the director of football goes in first - then they should look to get the manager in off the back of that.

“That’s the easiest transition, in my opinion.

“The director of football has to be the one who comes in and appoints the manager. If it works the other way about, you can end up with issues about who is in control. It can cause a bit of friction.

“I think it’s a great idea for Rangers to go down that route. They are a huge club and this set-up would give them more of a structure to their football operation and make it easier to develop.”

Alex McLeish remains the front-runner for the job, although Press Association Sport understands the club have yet to make contact with their former boss.

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes, St Johnstone’s Tommy Wright and former Ibrox defender Frank de Boer are also tipped as contenders.

Gers chairman Dave King has already confirmed he may consider hiring an interim boss if it allows him time to go after his first-choice pick in the summer.

Some have questioned whether the likes of McInnes or Wright would be willing to take orders from a director of football.

But Neilson believes they would be willing to give the set-up a try.

“I think people these days know what the game is like,” he said. “They realise football clubs are no longer run between a manager and a chairman, the local businessman done good.

“Football has changed. Clubs are huge operations now so there has to be levels throughout them to make sure the different parts of the organisation are looked after.

“We’ve moved on from the days when one person could make a decision on behalf of the whole club. There’s too much money at stake.

“If guys like Derek or Tommy were to be offered the job and there was a really good director of football in place, why would they not want to use them?”

Neilson had to deal with accusations during his Jambos reign that Levein was the man really picking the team in Gorgie.

But he says the people making those claims “didn’t understand” how the role worked.

And he has so much faith in the system, he hopes to have someone installed in a similar position at MK Dons if he can lead the Sky Bet League One outfit to promotion.

He said: “The director of football role is going to be taken up by more and more clubs. Hearts were the first club to do it in Scotland and, with the success they’ve had, I think more will look to implement it. Eventually every club will do it.

“It allows the manager to focus on the first team and things that are really relevant to things on a Saturday.

“The director of football can then have a more long-term strategic plan for how he wants the club to go.

“I don’t have a director of football here at MK Dons right now but I do have a chief executive who is very good. However, he is more involved on the business side.

“But it means I’m having to deal with a lot of different things on the football side that I didn’t have to deal with at Hearts.

“I’ve had to order bibs and training kit since coming down here and I’ve also been re-organising the manager’s office at the stadium. That was taken care of at Hearts.

“However, it’s been a good education for me as my role is more than it was up the road. I just need to prioritise what is most relevant for the games coming up.

“If we make the Championship, bringing someone in to do the director of football role here is something we would look at.”

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