Continuity, stability and creating Portsmouth philosophy - Analysis of how director of football operations role would work at Fratton Park

The position remains unfilled on a permanent basis, while Andy Cullen is weighing up whether the role is even required at Fratton Park.

Thursday, 24th June 2021, 4:55 am
Chief executive Andy Cullen is weighing up whether to drive ahead with plans for a Pompey head of football operations. Picture: Graham Hunt/ProSportsImages/PinP
Chief executive Andy Cullen is weighing up whether to drive ahead with plans for a Pompey head of football operations. Picture: Graham Hunt/ProSportsImages/PinP

Essentially a foreign model, it is now beginning to find acceptance in the English game, even for a League One club such as the Blues.

Through his experiences in football, Neil Sillett is familiar with its requirements.

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Whether it is labelled sporting director, director of football or head of football operations, the remit remains the same.

Sillett has worked as a technical director, global scout, head of Academy recruitment, an agent, physio, and coach.

And he explains why Pompey can benefit from its implementation.

He told The News: ‘It works in Spain or Italy or America – and will work in England – because coaches come and go so quickly. Whereas the sporting director can stay there for years.

‘He is overseeing the club philosophy and having a say in the coaching continuation.

‘Say things work out really well for Danny and Nicky and they go onto Leicester – the head of football operations should immediately have an idea as to who can carry on the good work.

‘There should be no big hole, it’s about continuation and stability.

‘You need to establish a philosophy right the way to the under-10s, so everything goes in the same direction.

‘Understanding the fans’ philosophy is vital, especially at a club like Pompey. You can’t have the fans signing the players, but the player philosophy has to be in sync with ownership and the supporters.

‘He will have an influence over the Academy. The head of Academy must be in line with the sporting director, so, in the Championship, the Academy has to produce Academy players.

‘When I was scouting for Aston Villa, director of football Steve Round was the conduit between the ownership and the management team.

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‘Some of his remit was coach continuation, ensuring the academy had investment and shared philosophy of the first-team. It was also about establishing the network for scouting for the Academy and senior team – and dialogue with the manager.

‘With all due respect, if the head coach goes to the management or ownership or the CEO and says “I want a throw-in coach, like Liverpool have”. Those above don’t understand.

‘The role works alongside the chief executive. It’s all about making sure the philosophy is ingrained through all departments of the football club.

‘The chief executive would handle things like commercial, sponsorship, ticket sales – but all the football side is totally the remit of the head of football operations.’

Following Kenny Jackett’s dismissal in March, a head of football operations position of sorts has been introduced.

European scout Roberto Gagliardi has stepped up to temporarily take the reins, working closely with Danny Cowley.

And should Cullen elect to retain the role, Sillett would be keen to apply.

He added: ‘I know the club, I know the Academy, I know the facilities and I know what fans want.

‘I’ve worked at international level, I’ve worked in the Premier League, I’ve worked in League One, I’m currently working in the Championship and doing other bits and bobs.

‘As a Pompey fan too – I’d definitely have an interest.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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