Current interim manager Graeme Murty – in temporary charge following the acrimonious departure of Mark Warburton – was the captain of Reading when manager Steve Coppell worked in tandem with director of football Nicky Hammond. That partnership provided success “way above” the Berkshire club’s “pay grade”, according to Murty, with unexpected promotion to England’s top flight as Championship title-winners in 2006.
Murty, then, doesn’t believe that the director of football role should be perceived as creating the potential for conflict over how responsibilities are divided in the football department, or as diminishing the role for the man who picks the team. “[At Reading] the director of football was there purely to support the manager. To help the manager in his role. To inform him about boardroom decisions, to give him ideas on recruitment,” said Murty.
“Ultimately it comes down to the manager picking the team and the team going and performing. So as far as I saw it, he was simply there to make the manager’s job easier. Not harder.
“It was really quite strange because I played with Nicky. So I knew him. When we saw him around he wasn’t director of football, Nicky Hammond, he didn’t have that title appended to him whenever he walked on the training pitch. It was Nicky, Hammo. So I knew him from previously and to be perfectly honest we didn’t see him very often. The manager was in charge of football matters and we walked on to the pitch in no doubt as to what we were trying to achieve every week, through the manager’s message.
“Whatever structure the board decides upon, people and personnel are going to have to fit around that and not the other way round. I’ve seen it across the continent, seen it happen in England. I think it’s down to acceptance of role, accept the people in there and use their knowledge. Not be scared of it. Ultimately we are all going to be judged on whether the first team win or not.
“It depends on personal relationships within the model [as to how people involved feel about it]. But I think they need to be strong people, people who are strong in their own convictions because they need to, behind closed doors, express their views forthrightly. But when the door opens after the meeting there has to be a corporate way forward and we all need to be on board. You can express your views. You can disagree, quite forcefully. But professionally. And when we come out the room we are all on board with the same message.
“The club will put the structure in place that they deem necessary to move this club forward. We need to move forward, to chase the guys in front, narrow that gap and need to put this football club back where it deserves to be right at the top of Scottish football. So if the board is going to do that then we all need to get on board with it, buy into it. And go forward with it.”
Murty is moving forward after the whirlwind that left the club’s under-20s coach in charge of the Rangers first-team. Following the 2-1 win over Morton in the Scottish Cup fifth-round tie last Sunday, the 42-year-old feels better prepared for his second game in charge, which arrives this afternoon against Dundee at Dens Park.
He feels he has already learned on the job, which explains his decision to tell the squad his team for today’s Tayside visit on Friday at Murray Park.
“I didn’t have a lot of time last week so I named the team in the changing room on Sunday,” he said. “I thought that was wrong. I made a mistake. I didn’t have a lot of time in my defence, but the people involved – or not involved – were in that dressing room at half 12 dealing with that. And then it’s very difficult to get rid of those emotions in time to be an energiser for your team.
“I said to them I didn’t like that. I didn’t like the way I had made them feel and will give them more time to deal with it in future so they can still come and add value to the squad. Honestly, I will do the same again next week as it’s not about the 11 players. It’s about everyone in the whole squad.”
Murty’s team this afternoon is expected to reflect the fact that he isn’t afraid to make deviations from the gameplan that became the orthodoxy under his predecessor Warburton.
“There will be changes but they will be done towards a clear purpose,” he said. “And the players know the purpose. I see football in a particular way; purpose with and without the ball. So there might be changes.
“I said to the players that I can’t be beholden to anyone else. I have to make the decisions I deem right to go on and win the game.
“I’ve had two very awkward conversations with players who aren’t going to be travelling to Dundee and that’s horrible. But I have to do what I think is right for the team.
“I said to those players that they have to add value. They also have to handle that emotion – which is horrible, I understand that – and come and be energisers for the team as we all succeed or we all fail.
“There are people in the squad who won’t play. There are people who will be on the bench who will be disappointed. I accept that. They have to use that as a stimulation to make the rest of the group better.”