A Director of Football for Wigan Athletic?

Mark Warburton was Brentford’s director of football when Uwe Rosler was manager.


“We want to be a modern football club, and we see that sometimes when managers leave a lot of the structure leaves with them. That is no use. You put a lot of time, a lot of investment and a lot of resource into developing that side of the business and you can’t have that changing every time a manager changes.The director of football gives you that continuity. They oversee the overall football department, all aspects of it, including the academy, performance and preparation, analysis and everything as well as the first team. It means that if a manager or a coach does leave, you are only replacing that one person and the club’s philosophy continues unbroken if you have that director of football in there.”

The words of a member of the Latics hierarchy? Jonathan Jackson or David Sharpe maybe?

The statement summed up what has been happening at Wigan over the past four years. The calamitous appointments of Owen Coyle, Malky Mackay and Warren Joyce destroyed what their predecessors had set up, leaving the club’s philosophy in tatters. Both Coyle and Joyce made not only wholesale changes in the playing staff, but their style of football was diametrically opposed to that of the previous managers. In both cases possession-based football was replaced by a physical approach embracing the long ball.

Ex-manager Uwe Rosler has been quoted recently as suggesting that Wigan Athletic need a period of stability. He was referring largely to Latics having had three managers this season and the instability it has caused. But it brought to mind another aspect of instability: that of player turnover. Alan Nixon’s “A mental amount of movement” tweet in January sticks in the mind. The Sun journalist had mentioned Latics’ interest in 5-6 new players. But by the end of the transfer window no less than 12 new faces had been brought in.

Few could disagree with Rosler’s comment. There is a clear need for continuity and stability at the club. Too many managers and players have come and gone. In the 2015-16 season there were 31 incomings and 44 outgoings of senior squad players at Wigan Athletic. The stats for the current season show 26 coming in and 29 leaving.

Strangely enough Rosler himself contributed to the lack of continuity and stability by bringing in a swathe of new players in the summer of 2014, despite the fact that his previous squad had reached the semi-finals of both the FA Cup and the Championship playoffs, due to his fine efforts. Sadly the majority of the new players could not make their mark and the manager was surely undermined by senior players from previous administrations. His departure in November 2014 was to lead to the appointment of Malky Mackay, a January fire sale and an avoidable relegation.

In his previous position at Brentford, Rosler had worked in tandem with Mark Warburton, who was Director of Football. Our Brentford sources tell us that it was Warburton who was largely responsible for the recruitment of players. One wonders what might have happened at Wigan if a Director of Football had been in charge to deal with recruitment with Rosler giving his input. It was sad to see a manager who had done so much to bring Wigan Athletic back into prominence the previous season being dismissed in a matter of months.

Although it might appear that the context was that of Wigan Athletic the preliminary comment came not from Wigan, but from Glasgow. The speaker was Rangers’ managing director Stewart Robertson talking to Sky Sports just a couple of months ago.

Although in continental Europe many clubs have sports directors, akin to the general manager role in American sport, the role of director of football in England has yet to be clearly defined. Essentially the director of football acts as an intermediary between that the board and the manager, but clubs have tailored job descriptions according to their own requirements. An experienced and competent director of football can advise both the manager and the board. The role seems to inevitably involve tensions between the director of football and the manager, especially in the area of player recruitment.

At this stage we are not advocating the appointment of a director of football at Wigan Athletic, but the concept merits due consideration. Stewart Robertson’s comments might have been made about Rangers, but they ring true to us supporters of Wigan Athletic.

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8 responses

  1. I think this is probably in the pipeline for the following additional reasons, JJ:
    1. Uwe is No 1 choice it seems. He is currently working with a DoF, gave a recent interview stating the necessity of one at English clubs and failed at Latics partly because of the absence of one.
    2. Matt Jackson left the club after his period of “consultancy”. He seemed to have been at least involved with aspects of the club which would fall under the remit of a DoF. His post has not been filled.
    3. Going back several weeks to the now infamous tweet from the Radio Manchester journalist who said Latics fans would be “amazed” at what he’d heard (and which Paul Kendrick has said the two of them are still working on as story), I think this heralds the likely incoming of someone either well-known to us e.g. Uwe or the appointment of a big football name as a DoF.

    Add this supposition to your very valid arguments and I think there will be a big change at Latics this close-season and not just in the manager’s office.

    • Good detective work, Pete! I wonder if Graham Barrow’s recent reference to internal things that have not been put right is also relevant>

      • Difficult to make out there what he meant. He also said he didn’t want to stay if he was going to be sidelined (as clearly happened under Coyle, Mackay and Joyce) or words to that effect.

  2. I have thought this for a while, with the close relationship between Martinez and Whelan, both wanting to improve home grown talent or bring in young talent and product them the Wigan way. That seemed to stop when Martinez went. We have gone back three or four steps now to just buying in players.
    We need to hear a 1, 3 & 5 year plan. I like the idea of a DoF he can look at loan deals with the manager as when Morsy was loaned out to Barnsley, it was not because the player wasn’t good enough. He came back, played most of the games and the earned a new contract.
    We do need more consistently in the management and director positions. Sharpe is only very young he might love his football, but you can’t tell me he knows the business side of things.

    • I’d agree with you on virtually every point there Gary. We need to move away from the idea that if a successful manager moves on, half the infrastructure of the club goes with him. In our case, under Roberto, that was made even worse because the transfer strategy was kept in his head.

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