Rangers have finally found a director of football after announcing Mark Allen has joined the Ibrox club. Here we look at six key questions regarding the hiring.
Why the need for a director of football?
Generally in British football, the director of football role is similar to the general manager position in American sports. Instead of the head coach acting as a patriarchal figure, being in charge of everything regarding the playing side of the business, the management structure is split into specific roles. The head coach is in charge of the team, and a general manager in charge on constructing the roster. The thought process is that, at the highest level, it’s just too much work for a coach to strategise, handle player egos, coach the first-team, identify talent, oversee the development of young players, and conduct transfer and contract negotiations. At a club like Rangers, it certainly makes sense to lighten the workload from the manager.
What will the position entail?
A director of football’s responsibilities are not set in stone, and vary from club to club. Some are in charge of the playing side, and the coach answers to them, but others work alongside the management staff, answering to the board of directors. Some concentrate on strengthening the first team squad; others are tasked with overseeing the youth set-up, ensuring a smooth path for young players to progress throughout the various age groups before making it to the first team. One club’s ‘director of football’ might be another’s academy director, or chief scout, or general manager. It remains to be seen exactly what Rangers have in mind for Allen.
What’s Mark Allen’s background?
Allen has spent the last nine years as academy director at Manchester City, a role he’s held since Sheikh Mansour bought the club. After being released by Swindon Town at a young age, Allen moved to San Diego on a soccer scholarship and completed a degree in business and accountancy. After returning to the UK, he became managing director of MTV’s broadcast division in London, staying in the role for 13 years before moving back into football. He also has a Uefa pro license.
What’s his philosophy?
City’s ideology included the implementation of a 4-3-3, possession-based, high pressing system right throughout the club, from the youngest age groups right up to the first team, believing this was the best way to teach players how to play the game. In training, young players didn’t take part in drills, they were taught from a “syllabus”, where each week particular aspects of football would be broken down and extensively dissected. In Allen’s opinion, continuity was key to success for a football club, once saying it would take 10 years to see the benefits from revolutionising the youth set-up at the Etihad.
What will Mark Allen’s role be at Rangers?
It’s hard to tell at this juncture as the timing was rather curious. Rangers are already well into the restructuring of their first-team squad. Manager Pedro Caixinha has recruited six new players, with another two deals to be completed imminently. Does the dynamic immediately shift? Or do they let Caixinha still in command of this window, after which Allen will take over the responsibility? Will part of his role embody that of a head scout, where he recommends players to Caixinha but the Rangers manager still has the final say? What if Caixinha starts next season poorly and has to be removed? Is this Allen’s decision? Is he in charge of finding a replacement?
Even if his main duties revolve around the youth structure, as his background would indicate, why then did Rangers overhaul their set up just one month ago? Graeme Murty was promoted to head of academy coaching, while former players Peter Lovenkrands and Andy Little were given jobs within the new structure. Did Allen have a say in this? Because if it didn’t it’s an odd thing to do. As someone who’s worked at one of the biggest clubs in the world, he may immediately look at the new youth set-up and say, ‘this isn’t going to work’.
Will he be visible?
Rangers will have to strategically decided how visible they want Allen to be. Do they have him talk to the media, even on an infrequent basis, or do they keep him hidden in the background. Supporters would prefer anyone with a high ranking role within the club to be as visible as possible, in the interest of transparency, but the inherent distrust of the director of football role in Scottish football may mean they’d be better keeping Allen away from the cameras. This will be much easier if his role is administrative or focuses on the academy. But if he’s even partly responsible for player recruitment, there is going to be major scrutiny.