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Damien Comolli was on the recent episode of The Football Manager podcast. They've added a DoF to the FM2013. If you've got no idea what I'm banging on about, FM is a football management game and for the first time ever you can appoint someone to handle the hiring and firing all members of staff, contracts, youth development, managing scouts, transfers etc. You can select the level of involvement for yourself (as manager) and the responsibility the DoF has at the club you're managing. If you have no interest in the game, you might still want to listen to the podcast as there's plenty said which retains massive interest in both Comolli's role at Spurs and what ultimately a DoF vision represents depending on what a football club seeks to get out of it.

We made a scapegoat of DC and in amongst all the name calling I think most of us know the system didn't work at Spurs because there seemed to be a lack of transparency on what the system actually was. An unnecessary cog in the wheel to most. The main complaint (from myself) was that it always appeared that our particular version of the DoF system was DoF > Coach. Consistency behind the scenes with the DoF selecting the coach/manager and supporting them in the transfer window. But as we all witnessed, when Comolli and others wanted to change things, they went ahead and did just that (removing Jol for Ramos). Comolli was given too much power and didn't compliment the system but rather consumed it in the end. Arnesen had a say in appointing Santini. Santini left, Jol was promoted. Jol and Arnesen worked well together. Arnesen left. Comolli was appointed. Jol was not the appointed one by Comolli and perhaps that's where the issue was birthed.

That's not to say that DC didn't have strengths. Again, we probably ignored the finer aspects of his job claiming that signing certain players wasn't such a big deal because they were hardly unknown transfer targets. He gives a couple of examples of the work his role entails on the podcast by telling a story about how Berbatov came to the Lane to watch us, only for Utd to win 1-0. After the game Berba told DC, "You're missing a striker like me". Took months of work, of talking, to get the player to decide it was for the best he signed with Spurs. Same with Gareth Bale. Sure, hardly unknown, but there was untold work (not just from DC but Levy got involved) to make sure Bale was ours in the end (the player was unsure about moving to Spurs with doubts on whether he would get any game time). All the grafting is something I guess we took for granted.

The crux of it is, the DoF (purely with transfers) is heavily involved in scouting, talking to players, agents, the players family and working with the chairman at the point of understanding and agreeing budget for wages/fee etc.

Comolli speaks about how it's impossible for a manager to cover all responsibilities without some assistance. Again, we probably get bogged down by titles. People reference Wenger and Ferguson as not working under a DoF system, but its not like they both do all the ground work for every deal. There are structures in place. There are structures at quite a few clubs and the 'system' has been around for several decades. It just didn't have a label that most of us scoff at.

The impression DC gives is that he works with the manager at all times and signs players the manager will agree to have (rather than the more continental and South American approach where coaches just work with the players given to them). So based on that, you expect that transfer wise - there was no issue with Martin Jol. On the surface. Politics of power ended that particular relationship.

"I never worked like this. I don't like. I work with the coach or the manager or the head coach (whatever you want to call it), I'm not working against him, I've always been saying 'what's the point in signing a player that the coach doesn't want because he won't play him - so it's money into the bin" - DC

There's some other interesting discussion points including how most successful youth development programs at football clubs have consistency by always retaining one person to oversee at academy level. The staffing outside of first team coaching is retained as this is a long term objective (and you only ever produce good youth players if the program is one that retains that consistency rather than losing it every time a new manager is appointed and restructuring occurs).

Since we scrapped the DoF at Spurs with the sacking of Comolli, we've witnessed how short term our transfer policy under Harry Redknapp and how the targeted players did not truly sit under any long term philosophy. Levy has worked as a General Manager for the club. Involved in signing players. Whether some players are proposed to the chairman outside of the remit of the coach, I don't know. I believe AVB accepted the new summer arrivals. There's no doubt Moutinho was one player he asked to have and we almost did before contract technicalities and last minute antics but that on hold for the time being. Levy is very proactive (say the 'relationship' with Real Madrid) but perhaps this role would be better occupied by someone that is truly a football man rather than a business one.

With the new training centre and the emphasis placed on youth development in recent years you can understand why we're rumoured to be looking for a director of football / technical director / call it what you want. To echo the sentiments of what was discussed on the FM podcast, as long as this position (one familiar to AVB from his time at Porto) was there to aid the coach in terms of the ilk of signings wanted along with personal preferences - then first team wise, AVB doesn't have to be heavily involved in the mundane parts of the process. Although, I really do think most managers are not heavily involved in that (aside from perhaps sometimes meeting players).

For me, having someone deal with the transfers will be better than having Levy deal with them. As long as the empowerment doesn't conflict with the coach - AVB is number one, the 'DoF' is number two. What matters more is the work that can be down with the academy and the scouting system (the latter especially needs refining). And a clear long term vision with the youth system with style of player and training along with players we seek to sign and add to the academy - this is what needs to be crafted and founded. Quite simply a DoF and the first team coach should be two separate positions both progressive and forward thinking and both complimenting each other and more importantly the ethos the club lays out (I'm not going to use the 'p' word here).

I'm all for Levy appointing someone. It's a long term assignment for certain. If things go wrong, if things don't work out at first team coaching level, then the chairman can appoint a new coach on advisement from the DoF. I guess that's how I would see it work, the problem last time out is that Comolli was the one that was truly doing the appointing and arguably his influence was too heavy handed and undermining.

It's about adapting a system that fits into your club and the clubs mantra. Have we learnt enough from the last attempt to make it work next time?

Interestingly, in the actual game FM2013 - you as a manager can hire and fire the DoF, rather than the other way round which tends to be the way it works at most clubs. But then, it is only a game.


You can listen to Comolli on the FM podcast on RSS here or via itunes here.

Reader Comments (23)

When DL hires a DOF then the allegiance of the DOF is automatically towards the Chairman, a working relationship would then grow between the two. Can DL really step away from the day to day involvement ? Providing the boundaries are set in concrete and adhered to this system works well but I fear our Dan needs to keep his finger on the pulse, understand that with our last Head Coach but this guy has scruples. The last transfer window had too many complications, change of manager, Euro's etc but with a DOF future targets identified early and signed up early would mean the team could gel pre season and be ready for a real tilt at glory.

Oct 13, 2012 at 9:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterRazspur

I'm sorry but rounding off an article with 'Interestingly, in the actual game FM2013' is bloody criminal..if the people running the club thought like that we'd be totally fucked..shame on you!

Oct 13, 2012 at 10:04 PM | Unregistered Commenterandy

I have to say that when I heard of Broomfield's sacking I expected to read about Baldini as our new DOF in a matter of days, now we are allegedly linked to every DOF and Sporting Director in Europe (seems they are all turning us down). Does seem strange though that AVB fell out with Broomfield over not getting the players he wanted in the last window, can he be sure the Chairman was in sync with his targets ?

Oct 13, 2012 at 10:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterRazspur

I don't think so Andy. FM simulates probable situations in the game of football. Some of the elements in the game are already in place in most football clubs. As spooky says "its only a game". That shouldn't stop anyone from evaluating the possibilities of such situations working for their club.

Nice article Spooky. At the risk of appearing completely clueless....I actually appreciated the work that DC did for us (both during his time at the club and his time at Liverpool). But, what do I know?

Oct 13, 2012 at 10:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterRonnie

'Only a game' comment was alluding to the fact that the manager has the power in the game, unlike in real life.

Oct 13, 2012 at 11:42 PM | Registered Commenterspooky

Yep Agreed Ronnie, DC brought in some very good signings IMO and the work he did in the background was very good.

Berbatov, Modric, Bale, Carrick to name some Gold and then BAE, Boateng, Kaboul to name some late bloomers... I'm not saying ALL of the signings during his term were phenom but the chap did alrite for us and Levys player resale war kitty.

And he also did a pretty good job at financially decapitating the Scouser! lols

Shame he never spotted us a kinsmaan, Lineker or Sheringham,,, oh how I cream for a 20+ goal a season stricker!!!

Oct 14, 2012 at 12:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterMrLevy

Oh and someone correct me but did he not also sign Thudd and Lennon as well?

Oct 14, 2012 at 12:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterMrLevy

Arnesen signed Lennon and Huddlestone just before he was poached by Chelsea. In fact, i think even the Carrick deal could have been put in place by Arnesen as well before he left, not 100% on that but i think so.

Bentley, Zokora, Pav, Rocha, Gomez, Hutton, Bent, Gilberto, Gunter, Ghaly, Mido, Boateng, Corluka were all Comolli signings. Hardly a team of world beaters is it?

Have any of those players gone on to do anything? Ok, KPB has found his feet in Italy and Kaboul improved no end under Harry at Pompey and when he brought him back to Spurs, but who else?

Berbatov, (possibly Carrick), Modric and Bale were high profile players bought by Comolli with the intention of being given first team football that they wouldn't have got week in week out at any of the top 4. This way they could build their reputations and get sold on in 3-4 seasons at a nice profit. There's nothing wrong with this policy but none of these players were 'discovered', they were all well known to everyone. What did Comolli need to do here that was so amazing?

Comolli did not once find a player like Sandro, who i think will be the best midfielder in the league in a couple of years as Broomfield did. A player few people outside of Brazil really looked at properly and is clearly going to be World class in a year or so's time. That for me is the kind of signing i would consider impressive.

People have short memories, Zokora, Pav, Bentley and Bent were bought for a total of £53m and did naff all. If that's a sign of a 'DOF' worth having, i'm the Queen of flipping Sheeba!!

He then went to Liverpool and set them back another 3 seasons with more overpriced and mediocre signings. Suarez, ok but who else? Adam, Henderson and Downing, they have done nothing. The guy is average at best at this role, lets not get carried away please. I was pretty happy when he went and i certainly wouldn't want him back....

Oct 14, 2012 at 2:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterLilywhite London

An excellent article like so many on this site.

However no matter if we have a D of F, a Chief Scout or The Man In The Moon in the clubs hierarchy it all boils down to some simple questions.

Will DL loosen the purse strings?
Will DL continue with his last minute hagglings over purchases and sales?

DL has run the club as his own personal fiefdom for the past ten years or so. Quite frankly I don't see him ever changing his present attitude.

I have always said that DL is a good business man, only football is not his business. He is a Suit, a Bean Counter. His main, and probably, his only objective is to ensure that the bottom line is written in black at the end of every financial year.

I don't see him ever taking a risk and buying a 30 goal a year man if it effects his end of year figures. Whereas we will never go broke with DL at the helm, I don't see us setting the world on fire with his present policies.

Quite frankly I feel that DL needs to sell out to some mega rich sugar daddy for us to achieve the success we had under Billy Nick.

DL has been there long enough to make his mark. And quite frankly his mark has been mediocrity.

Oct 14, 2012 at 3:30 AM | Unregistered Commenterkingdom of sod


Oct 14, 2012 at 8:34 AM | Unregistered Commenterfillar

Should I throw in a 'We're going to sign X player for £15M' headline to wake you up?

Oct 14, 2012 at 11:27 AM | Registered Commenterspooky


Oct 14, 2012 at 12:02 PM | Unregistered Commenterfillar

If Levy re-introduce a DOF at Spurs, it must
be done in close consultation with AVB in order
to be succesful.

Oct 14, 2012 at 2:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterAllan

Think AVB was appointed because he was keen to work with a DOF, Ramos was for the same reason.

If the manager works well with a DOF then i can't see a problem but i haven't seen it used in this country to any degree of success yet. The whole thing is about buying and selling players in a way that makes money rather than loses it, a business plan more than anything else with someone overseeing it. That's the main reason why Harry went, he wanted some older established players to try and have a go at the title but would offer very little in re-sale value and command high wages.

It's boring, its about business and not glory but then this is the real world, not a football management sim with a cheat on money available to buy players... Unlike Citeh!!

Oct 14, 2012 at 5:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterLilywhite London

Comolli did a decent job at Spurs with his signings, I calculated that 2/3 of them did good things at Spurs.
At one time almost all the squad that qualified for and did well at CL. were Comolli men.
It was not him but the set-up that was wrong and the Head Coach/manager must be in charge.
Harry could certainly have used some experienced professional help when he was distracted by the Court case
and then the heart problems last season.

Oct 14, 2012 at 6:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmyG2

One example that can be looked at for getting football together with business in the moment is Newcastle (even if some sponsor deals have gone too far for some of their fans). As far as I know, they dont have a very complicated system of roles, but each area is granted some authonomy to do the job properly. Ashley looks for the deals, Pardew coaches the team and the scouting department gets the players in. As Spurs, they are no sugar daddy club, which is cheating for me and will be hopefully soon disciplined by UEFA financial fair play.
The problem of clubs of the financial might of Spurs is that once they get a good team together and challenge for something, the retention of the players is difficult, because of a relatively lower wage structure and offers tempting players (which have at maximum 5 year contracts) to other clubs. To aggravate it, fans call for ambition, or to buy even more expensive players to challenge for the title.
So, the better a team gets, the higher the wages get and as long as there is no bigger revenue from a new stadium or regular championsleague tv money you have to cover the rising costs with occasionally selling a good player. You can keep this structure going, if you have a good youth system or making smart signings. I believe this is what Levy has been doing as best as he can. Spurs would do better probably, if Levy held the financial controling position without interfering too much on the choice of the signings, AVB proposing and checking the suitability to the squad and somebody else (like a DoF) doing the scouting and all the work related to contracts.
I am very proud of Spurs business development, as I see it in perspective to from where they come from and with the fact that they are competing almost head to head with benefactor clubs or traditional giants. This gives an even better taste, that when glory will come it will be deserved and due to competence! COYS

There is a very good blog commenting on the financial strategy of top European clubs:

Oct 14, 2012 at 11:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterFab

So it's come to this? Good god, international break is f*cking insufferable ...

Oct 15, 2012 at 2:26 AM | Unregistered Commenternycyid

@nycyid - you`re right mate, it`s like a prison sentence.
However, on the bright side Lennon and Walker had a nice gentle run out, Bale got to sharpen up his finishing and diving skills and a couple of chavs picked up injuries.
Ade came out of international retirement to virtually force Levy`s hand into signing a striker in January, so who says international football is pointless?( Apart from those sat opposite the TV cameras at Wembley)

Oct 15, 2012 at 10:01 AM | Unregistered Commentermoe

Comolli "did a good job"??
It depends on how the role was specified.If it was to unearth up and coming talent and secure that talent for a reasonable fee he failed miserably ,most of the "talent" bought in returned to the obscurity they came from without ever threatening to break into the first team.
Others bought in for large fees were moved on at a loss or a small gain but contributed little,Murphy,Taraabt,Cimbonda,Zakora,Rocha,Hutton,Gilberto,Dos Santos,Bent Ghaly,Dos Santos
Others performed for a while Malbranque,Woodgate,Gomes?
a couple are clinginging on but have had more loan periods than MBNA............. Bentley and Bostock
The only true success stories are BAE and Modric but they didnt come cheaply.
I am sure most professional Managers could all identify a good player once he has broken into a first team and plays to a high standard,the art is in identifying them before everyone else.Comolli spent big and acheived very little and went on to do the same at Liverpool.If we are to have a DOF he should be connected to grass roots football,have an encyclopedic knowledge of the game at youth level and be able to identify players who will flourish under the regime at Tottenham.Easy to say but very difficult to acheive .However things are a bit quiet at work lately................

Oct 15, 2012 at 11:25 AM | Unregistered Commenterbournemouth spur

DL will have to spend big because we now are now constructing a squad who are presenting as hungry to win trophies and with a manager who is post modern and very competitive. So provide what is needed to equip the Spurs for the march to the summit. COYS.

Oct 15, 2012 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered Commenterpleb

DC getting praise from the spurs really! for one i was glad to see the back of him, Harry left pompey as will not work under a DoF, could be why he is no longer at the lane, AVB may like a DoF but for me only really played Man Utd and still dropped 7 points, so not won me over yet ,who ever said lose Modric and Van der Vart from the lane at the same time should leave the lanethemselves wether it was Levy, a DoF or AVB as it's left us short of flare and ideas, we will take a massive hiding at some point this season as the cracks have only been papered over, with a hard fought but fortuitus win over the mancs.
Set up at all clubs need to suit everyone, with the manager/coach having a major say in which players would suit the system adopted, how can the manager/coach use players that he does not rate, which makes me think the DoF is just a gloryfied scout with a bit of negotiation skill, bit of a pointless postion.

Oct 15, 2012 at 9:28 PM | Unregistered Commenteroldyid

WTF was all that about?

Oct 15, 2012 at 11:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterStevo

For those with Comolli tinted glasses on i'll say it again...

People have short memories, Zokora, Pav, Bentley and Bent were bought for a total of £53m and did naff all. Is that's a sign of a 'DOF' worth having?

I wouldn't have gone anywhere near those players and certainly at the money we paid but do i get the job? I fail to see what he did that someone else half sensible couldn't do with their eyes shut.

His disastrous spell at Liverpool confirmed my doubts about him but some posts on here about how well he did for us just can't have been thought through properly. He is clearly pants...

Oct 16, 2012 at 8:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterLilywhite London

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